Glad to Be Different


Eric was different from the other kids and he knew it. But he wasn’t sure whether he liked being different. He often thought about it when he woke up early in the morning and had to stay in bed and be quiet so he wouldn’t wake up his brothers. Sometimes he would turn on his lamp and read. Other times he would lie in the dark and listen to the cars and trucks whizzing by on the turnpike or to the rooster crowing. Then he would think about how far away the cars and the rooster were and why he could hear them so well in the morning, when he never even noticed them in the daytime while he played.

Sometimes Eric would think about his curly red hair and how the other kids called him “Red, Red, the Fire Head” and how he had to share a room with his three brothers instead of having a room all by himself like his friend Andy Rogers. Those were times he didn’t like being different.

It wasn’t just his red hair and waking up early that made Eric different. And it wasn’t just having seven brothers and sisters when his friends had only one or two. Eric was the only one in his school class who went to Primary and the only one in his neighborhood who couldn’t play boisterous games on Sunday.

Most of the time Eric didn’t like being different, but lately he was thinking about something else. In two weeks it would be his birthday and he’d be eight years old. Sometimes when he’d wake up in the mornings, he’d think about being baptized. He tried to imagine how it would be when he put on the white clothes and walked down the steps into the water. He could picture his dad standing in the water waiting for him and holding out his hand for Eric to take. This thought made Eric feel good.

One day on the way home from school Eric talked to Andy about being baptized. “Are you going to be baptized when you’re eight?” he asked his friend.

“I don’t think so,” Andy replied. “I don’t know much about that stuff.” Boy, Eric thought, different again!

Then Andy asked, “Will you be baptized when you’re eight?”

Eric looked at Andy for a moment and decided, Andy won’t tease me if I tell him about it because he’s a good friend. “Yes, I will,” Eric answered. “In two weeks it will be my eighth birthday. And that’s old enough to be baptized. I can hardly wait.”

Then an exciting idea came to Eric. “Say, Andy,” he asked, “would you like to come to my baptism? My dad’s going to do it. I get to wear all white clothes and sit on the front row with my dad. You could come and bring your dad, too, if you want to.”

When Eric’s baptism date finally came, his whole family went with him. Andy and Mr. Rogers were there too.

Before the baptism all the people participated in a brief service. First there was a song and then a talk about Jesus being baptized and about the importance of following Him.

Jesus was different too, Eric realized. It was a very comforting thought.

When it was time to be baptized, everything happened just like Eric had imagined. But now he could really feel Dad’s strong hand reach out for his. He could feel the cool water pushing softly against his waist. For a few moments Eric didn’t think of anything at all except the sound of his dad’s voice and the warmth of his dad’s hand and the cool water all around him.

After the baptism and after he and Dad had changed clothes, Eric shook hands with everyone, and his mother gave him a tight hug. Then Eric and his dad walked to the back of the room to see Andy and Mr. Rogers, who were both looking pleased. Dad shook hands with Mr. Rogers and said, “Thanks for coming, Frank.”

Mr. Rogers waited a moment before he answered. “It was my pleasure,” he said. “It was a lot different than I expected. I’m glad we were here to see it.”

Then he turned to Eric and shook his hand. And Eric knew that something very important had happened not only to him but to Andy and his father too. And then Eric knew that in some ways it was good to be different.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Jerry Harston