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Don Locke: Looking Through Bifocals

Often when little girls play dress-up, or dolls or "house," they affect a different accent . . . a foreign, or maybe New York brogue . . . which of course is also about as foreign as you can get. Or sometimes they give themselves names more glamorous or different-sounding than their own. First wife Bett said she always gave herself the name "Suzanne."

It is said that we are more ready to imitate those different from us than those nearly like us. Not all bad I guess--especially if we attempt to emulate someone we think more admirable than we are. We do know that the desire to copy or imitate is stronger in some folks than others. We also know that perhaps the less satisfaction we derive from ourselves, the greater the desire to be like others.

Once Bett and I attended a banquet get-to-gather. The meal was fine. Then came the rump-numbing ordeal of an after-dinner speaker, about as boring as watching wet paint dry. A young couple sat across the table from us; she rested her head on her husband's shoulder and went to sleep. The rest of us tried to show some semblance of interest in the dull locution taking place---close kin to a bumblebee in a jar. I nudged Bett and nodded toward the young wife. Bett whispered, "She's a real person." Had it not been for our own hypocrisy we would have gone to sleep too. But we imitated what we thought was proper. Of course there is a thin line between courtesy and hypocrisy. However, when we trust our own judgement, the less likely we are to copy or imitate.

My old friend, Orval Romans (now gone on), said one time his church was preparing to have a revival. The pastor was about out of his head with excitement (like most young pastors are). The Sunday before it was to begin, the pastor admonished the congregation to, "support the revival---in fact, all those who want a revival stand and say 'A-men.'" Orval didn't stand.

"Brother Orval, don't you want a revival?" the pastor asked.

"I surely do," Orval answered, "but if people don't know me well enough to know that I do, my jumping up and hollerin' 'A-men' is not going to matter one way or the other." Orval didn't jump through hoops well; he wasn't given much to imitation.

We imitate for several reasons I suppose, but sometimes we do just to not look out-of-place. The first year I taught, I was in a state-wide agriculture teachers' meeting. The main speaker, a university professor, asked how many had ever seen a certain variety of apple. Thinking everybody around me would raise his hand, I put mine up too; I wouldn't have known that variety if I had met it in the middle of the big road . . . I knew most of the common varieties but I had never heard of that one, yet I lied and said I had. Very few hands went up. I would have been better to have told the truth. Yet I imitated in order not to look our of place. Fortunately, I've since learned I don't need to know everything . . . and folks don't take to people much who "know everything."

But there is nothing wrong with wanting to be like someone admirable or of a good report. That's the favorable part of imitation.

I once asked a young lady what her cousin was "doing now." She said, "Puttin' on I guess."

Kindest regards . . .

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