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I choose difference, so should you

Tex Beneke, singing with the Glenn Miller orchestra, had a song about his gal in Kalamazoo — zoo — zoo. My mother and father loved Glenn Miller. When my dad was in the army during the Second World War, Glenn Miller's orchestra was practicing on the base, and he used to listen to that music. Now, my son married a gal from Michigan and they both live in Kalamazoo. That is where my wife and I visited while I was off the island over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

It was cold. Now I know why Beneke and the backup singers repeated the zoo — zoo — zoo. His teeth were chattering and he was shivering from the frigid air. We drove-drove-drove on Christmas Day from the western part of Michigan to the eastern part where we had dinner with our daughter-in-law's family. It was delightful; we had smoked and barbecued sausage, chicken, and fish (am I leaving anything out?). Not traditional, but delicious. And the gluten free chocolate tart at the end? Oh my, oh my.

On the way back that evening we enjoyed driving in whiteout conditions that made for an exciting experience and the occasion to pray a lot — not necessarily out of place on Christmas Day. After all, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus (but we did not want to die and go into His presence quite yet).

If you do not know what “whiteout” is, imagine driving down the interstate only to have the snow cover the road in white so that you cannot tell where the lanes are anymore and the falling snow fill the air above the interstate with white so that everything becomes white and you begin to get disoriented. Add to that some wind so that the flakes are falling diagonally, and you have the picture. My wife just closed her eyes and went to sleep.

The next day our daughter-in-law and I came down with the flu. We were out of business for three days, and so my son and my wife joined in the sluggish behaviour, and we all bundled up in blankets and watched DVDs like they were going out of style (well, come to think of it, they ARE).

Anyway, needless to say I did not want to see anything that looked like food. By the time I came out of it our stay with the children in Kalamazoo had come to an end. We made a memory, and we have pictures of everyone in their pyjamas and best sicky-smiles.

Before leaving, we cashed in the stay at a local bed and breakfast our children had bought for us, which included breakfast. And this is what I want to share with you. If, by any strange turn of circumstances, you find yourself in Western Michigan and near Kalamazoo, you must check out Stuart Avenue Inn. It is a bed and breakfast and the Innkeepers are Chris and Dana.

The house is in a historic district of the city and sits among several striking, large and magnificent homes. The Stuart Avenue Inn features several rooms on several floors; ours had its own kitchenette and bathroom. The bed was luxurious and it had several layers of comforters on it.

Now here is a fact about my wife. She never met a door, or a window, that did not deserve to be opened and kept open, especially in the dead of winter. Even though it was freezing outside, we turned off the heat (the inn is kept quite warm and comfortable) and opened the window nearest the bed. Then, we climbed in under those comforters and snuggled. Man, I can really sleep when it's like that.

The next morning, after we showered and came down with our luggage to the car, we were told that a special room for just us had been set up for breakfast. This was a superb room with large windows looking out on the snow-covered grounds. Inside, the potted plants thrived in the light shining through those windows. The woodwork was rich and detailed on all the furniture, doorframes, and other fixtures. The wallpaper was intricate. The table was set like a work of art, and the food was prepared fresh with eggs, fruit, homemade yoghurt, and juice.

Turns out the Innkeepers are a retired attorney and an ex-marine turned cabinet-maker, but I won't tell you which one is which. You should find that out for yourself, and that would not be a difficult task, because both Chris and Dana are available for conversation. They are delightful.

As Linda and I sat talking with them I began to reflect on how opposites attract. Opposites do attract, but opposites don't stick together over the long haul without some effort.

People have to be comfortable with difference, and they have to honour the ways in which others do indeed differ.

I would, for instance, not usually throw open the windows when ice and snow are all over the place outside, and there is a breeze making the wind chill feel even more frigid, but I understand how she feels, and so I go along. When I do that, I often discover that the ride is a good one — not one I would have even considered, but a nice surprise. As it turned out cuddling up under those blankets was wonderful.

The experience of difference in relationships is a critical factor affecting the health of those relationships. Where people often go off the rails is when difference is interpreted as conflict, in which someone must be right and someone must be wrong.

If that can be avoided, then difference can simply be another possibility. Difference can be an opportunity to enrich one's experience of life. Difference can be the open door to seeing one's partner in a new and fascinating light. Difference can strengthen attraction or reignite its spark. Difference can deepen one's appreciation for the other.

When the difference of another is allowed to infiltrate one's perception, it can expand a person's horizons. When the difference of another is smothered by the demand for unity, it brings stagnation, boredom, and the withdrawal of authentic relationship. So, I choose to celebrate difference, and if you're ever in Kalamazoo — zoo — zoo, be sure to stop in to talk with Chris and Dana, two people who have made difference a working enterprise.

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Published January 07, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated January 06, 2014 at 6:54 pm)

I choose difference, so should you

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