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photo of red flower in field of yellow flowers

For the last 15 years, the landscaping of a major corporation has been exactly the same. Every fall, dozens of perfectly spaced rows of yellow tulip bulbs are planted, all in a uniform pattern. And each spring, on cue, the yellow tulips bloom. As I drive by, I admire the symmetry of their design. When the wind blows, all of the yellow tulips seem to dance and sway together in perfect unison. It’s quite impressive.

However, last year as I drove by, I noticed something different. They were still there. All of the yellow tulips fully bloomed as expected, each one in unison and in perfect alignment. But right smack in the middle of all of that yellow was one red tulip, one unplanned, unorganized, unexpected red tulip in a sea of yellow that seemed to shout, “I am here and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

To the landscaping team, I’m sure it seemed as though a terrible mistake had been made. One red tulip bulb had somehow made its way into the dozens of yellow. However, to Mother Nature no mistake was made. She did it on purpose. That’s the nature of nature, to throw something in the mix of things that doesn’t really belong there. But undeniably it’s still there.

I wanted to pull my car over and applaud that red tulip. I’m weird that way. I have a great appreciation for diversity, for that one thing that dares to stand out from all of the rest. And I prayed the landscapers wouldn’t insist on conformity and pull it out. To their credit, they didn’t. For as long as the yellow tulips lasted that spring, one red one remained at the center shouting, “Look at me. I’m different from the rest.”

Maybe you know what it feels like to be that red tulip, to be an island of diversity in a sea of sameness. Maybe you’re the person who’s different from most others around you, the one who feels differently or has a belief system that doesn’t match theirs.

Maybe you’re the weird one in your family or at work. Maybe you’re the red tulip! If you are, I applaud you. I respect the courage it takes to not try to be like the rest or respect the courage it takes to not try to be like the rest or acquiesce to other people’s opinions just to fit in.

Society is in love with conformity. People find comfort in sameness. And yet Nature abhors it. Every creation is unique. Every snowflake has a different design. Every person’s DNA is unique. These are the only things that make us interesting.

Nature is funny. Like that one red tulip, she always throws something in that can’t be explained away or discounted, something that has to be noticed and dealt with, whether you like it or not!

That’s why parents who are fundamentalists end up with a gay son, or left-wing liberals will have a daughter who is a Republican. That’s why New Age parents who schooled their children in the arts of crystals, energy healing and all of the other New Age stuff will have one child who becomes a born-again Christian.

Nature loves to take us off course, to challenge our beliefs, to force us to dig deeper to love people whom we don’t understand. She loves to upset our normal, everyday routines and take us out of our comfort zone. That’s why she puts things in our path that we think don’t belong there. And there are good reasons for the unexpected twists that Nature brings, these unplanned events.


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