Exactly like me

Even the most beautiful mask is no match for a real face.  Venice, June 2008

Even the most beautiful mask is no match for a real face. Venice, June 2008

“Nobody can be exactly like me.  Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”
― Tallulah Bankhead

Some of us are more reserved than others, but almost all of us don a figurative mask occasionally, or maybe even often.  We feel vulnerable and a bit intimidated about being ourselves, since we harbor a vast inner archive of our shortcomings, past mistakes and embarrassing experiences.  If we aren’t careful, we can let our insecurities rob the world of the gifts only we can give it.

When I think of the people who most appeal to me, whether they are friends I know personally, writers I know only through their works, or celebrities I will never meet, the common trait among them is their willingness to be themselves, honest about their own hopes, fears and failures.  Those who mask their unique personalities tend to blend into the background, inoffensive but forgettable.

For many years, Fred Rogers closed each of his programs for children with these simple but profound words: “There’s only one person in the world exactly like you.” Considering how many people are in the world, isn’t it amazing– almost miraculous — that each of us is unique?  That fact alone makes the world a very interesting place!  And you are part of that big fascinating picture.

What can you give others today that can come ONLY from you?


  1. Just as some like to be frightened, and therefore watch horror movies; others are intrigued by stories of tragedy. Whether the famous tragedies of Shakespeare, or modern productions like “Titanic”, people often like to be moved to tears by stories of fiction. To me (and very likely to Carlyle, op.cit.) Gaston Leroux’s “Phantom of the Opera” is king of the tragedy genre. The key to its intrigue – the protagonist, who has much to offer the opera (world) lives in the dark recesses, and wears a mask.

    • Wow, I had not made that connection. Is not the Phantom’s tragedy bound up in his own vulnerability and refusal to remove his mask? As Christine sings to him, “It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.” Having said that, characters such as the Phantom and Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (and even Harper Lee’s Boo Radley) are in hiding for a good reason. The world can be a very cruel place, especially for those who are different. That’s why we should think twice before making fun of anyone, no matter how disagreeable we may find them.

  2. Mike Bertoglio

    That is a great question- what is something unique I can bring to the table?
    Today is my last day for a time in NYC- so I will be shaking the dust off my shoes soon.
    I am still back on your earlier article and the George Will article was great. And what you say has relevance for folks like his son who have unique gifts to offer us often recognized such as an “aptitude for happiness often lacking in a society more prone to acting out our anger.”
    Something like that. I think Henri Nouwen recognized that when at the top of his game as a professor at Harvard he went to the work with the handicapped at La Arche community in Canada. God said to him to work with the handicapped and you will be healed. Often these folk,s gifts go unrecognized or unappreciated as you know so well.

    • Thanks Mike. Henri Nouwen forever has a place in my heart for his work with L’Arche, whose model of what is called “service delivery” for the people who live in their homes is surely one of the best around. I mentioned L’Arche in a previous post. There are several L’Arche homes in the DC area, and we have visited four of them. They have invited Matt to come to their Bible studies, dinners, etc. even though he does not live there; they are open to the entire community and practice true inclusion (every home has as many people without intellectual disabilities, as it has residents with them). As an international community, L’Arche has probably done more globally to improve the lives of people with disabilities than any other organization out there. Thanks for your comments on a topic that is obviously dear to me!

  3. Sheila

    Good Tuesday morning from Garden City, my friend. The fog this morning is “thick as pea soup” but it’s all good. I know I’ll never make a difference in this huge world, but for those who experience ME today, I hope it will be pleasant. I promise to give this day a SMILE!!
    Blessings to all, Sheila

    • Sheila, I know that you WILL make a difference! You likely will not know about it, but you will. The world is huge but life happens one person at a time, one moment, one smile, one kind word at a time. I’ve always found it interesting (and more than a little sobering) that one of the few times Jesus discussed what we have come to call “Judgment Day” (in Matthew 25:31-46) he implies that pretty much everyone will be surprised at the outcome. Those who neglected their fellow humans won’t understand why Jesus says he doesn’t know them, and those who did good to their fellow humans won’t realize that it was Jesus they were serving all along; in fact, they seem hardly to be aware of their own good deeds. SO with that in mind, keep up that beautiful spirit and loving smile – YOU ARE CHANGING THE WORLD and someday you may be surprised to find out just how much!

      • Sheila

        Julia, thank you for your kind words and reminding me of that scripture. We really should always be ourselves, but be our best selves. I so hope that you’re having a good week and that Jeff and Matt are doing well. Sheila

        • Thanks Sheila, we are all OK. Jeff is starting to feel the effects of the radiation and chemo – tired and no appetite, but he’s pushing himself to eat (I wonder what that is like? :-)) and still working full days. The doctors are concerned that his wounds (from the liver resection) are STILL not healing, and seem to have gotten worse since they started him back on chemo. SO, as ever, we appreciate your prayers and kind thoughts!

  4. Ryan

    I really like this one, Gia. Love you!

    • Thank you Ryan! I’m so happy to see you here.

  5. Wow, I really don’t know what to offer the world. Whatever it is I hope it inspires people! 🙂

    • Based on what I’ve seen on your blog, I think you are already offering the world your friendship, honesty and sharing. I enjoyed reading the article about the Philippines. I had never heard or read any of these things before, despite having friends who lived there for years and loved it. As a mother you also are doing an important job helping your kids grow up (and I think your guest blogging son has given you a great idea – good luck! It will be hard but well worth it).

  6. Carlyle

    I quickly realized that Eric had unmasked me!

    • Hee-hee! It’s about time!

      • Sheila

        That Eric! Haha…

  7. Becky Sweatt

    I need to hear this. I’m in a bit of a pickle and knew you would have a word of encouragement. God sees every bit of who I am and Loves me anyway. I desperately seek this love today…and should everyday. With HIM I can be who ” I am ” which, I hope is more and more the likeness of HIS SON. As far as any gift I have. Today I pray it’s grace under pressure. In HIM I can do all things through Christ who is strengthening me.

    • Hi Becky, I’m sorry to hear that you are having challenges, but hope you enjoyed your time in Texas – I did enjoy the photos of you and your daughters on Facebook! Call me sometime (or I’ll call you) and we’ll catch up. I tried to call you Saturday, but Glenn said you were still in Texas. Thanks for visiting here! Your faith is a wonderful gift of encouragement to us.

  8. Mike Bertoglio

    Where is the article about the Phillipines? The church we attend in Seattle is about half Phillipino.
    Other modern tragedy movies– Love Story, beaches, Glory?

    • Mike, the article is at the Vanilla Housewife blog. Glory is one of our all-time favorite movies. Have you visited the monument to the 554th in the Boston Public Gardens? Just recently while Jeff was in the hospital at Walter Reed, I spent some time in the “Heroes” wing, reading the memorials to various soldiers in U. S. history. I came across the story of a young African American soldier in the Union army, from that very regiment, who rushed forward to carry the flag after the young flag bearer was killed. I couldn’t help wondering whether the scene with Denzel Washington doing that very thing was based on a true story. I may have snapped a photo of that memorial plaque; if I find it, I’ll try to send it to you.

  9. What a different world we’d live in if we all believed that the fact we are unique is a Good Thing. Society pressures us to conform and be like everyone else.
    Like you, I am drawn to those who are willing to be vulnerable and show their Real Selves.
    Thanks for a great post!

    • Thank you, I’m glad you like it! We all want to be appreciated, but trying too hard to please everyone is definitely a recipe for failure. I think that’s one reason why it’s so important to be kind. We are less afraid to be honest if we are in the presence of kindness. Thanks for being here!


  1. Not yourself | Defeat Despair

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