When I was a child, I lived in abject fear of having a chameleon anywhere near my hair. It started because I did not like the whole exercise of eating. After a couple of mouthfuls I was no longer hungry and could not understand why I had to eat the whole entire meal! So I kept giving my caregiver a truly onerous task of sitting with me and coaxing me to eat just one more spoonful for hours and hours every day at every meal except breakfast, as I got bored half to death by this onerous task of chewing and swallowing and chewing and swallowing and chewing…. Then one day she decided to use fear tactics to make me eat my meals quickly.
“If you don’t eat your food I will get a chameleon and put it on your head!”, she said forcefully. At first I did not care since I did not really get what that meant. What was a chameleon anyway?!
Realizing that the statement was not making any difference, she proceeded to say: “Heh! You just continue playing with your food. When the chameleon gets on your hair it will never let go of it! The only way to get it out will be to cut off all your hair!”
Now, that got my ears all perked up, my heart thumping with fright, and my mouth chewing. I loved my hair (and she knew this), and could not imagine anyone cutting any part of it, much less all of it! That was enough to change my perspective regarding whether I should eat my food with or without coaxing.
Of course the story about chameleons grabbing hair and never letting go was not real, but I took interest in chameleons since then. I learned that a chameleon has the ability to change to the same color as its surroundings even as it moves. I would sometimes watch one for hours as it moved across the branch of a tree in the garden to see what color it would be next… making sure it never got anywhere near me of course…
Now, I see how positive a characteristic this is for its self protection… and how closely we as human beings mimic this same characteristic … just as involuntarily as the chameleon changes… for self preservation?
The chameleon is defined by its surroundings … and so are we.
We naturally adapt to our surroundings and begin to take on the behavior and culture, as well as perspective of the world based upon the circumstances and people we are surrounded by. Even more intense is the effect of the people we have closest to us daily … and just like the chameleon, this happens involuntarily.
And so, when our surroundings are filled with good things to lift up our spirits, and positive attitudes and God fearing friends, colleagues and relatives, we tend to pick up those characteristics and attitudes and find our spirits free. But when our surroundings are filled with negativity that brings our spirits down … negative attitudes towards anything and everything, theft and plunder, jealousy, corruption and every kind of vice, we begin to see these as normal and slowly our conscience is killed. We begin to see the world from a different perspective, and our hearts are filled with ideas and plans that draw us further and further away from God … involuntarily…
… Or is it? The spiral into negativity is very appealing, because often, with it comes the feeling of a loss of responsibility toward God and humanity, as the burden of life is lifted off our shoulders … ‘It is not our fault’, we say… ‘life is the way it has to be… that is just how it is … things just work that way around here .. this is just the way people are so we have to live with it .. it is because of the media, our leaders, my friends, my family…’. These are the excuses we give ourselves, deferring the blame to our surroundings, as if we did not have a choice to make to take ourselves out of that negativity.
A chameleon changes involuntarily, but I believe that as a human being I have a choice to make. I have a choice to change and live positively or to allow myself to change negatively… and simply blame my environment for the character that it enforces on me… ‘Hey! Don’t blame me! This is for self defense!’, I hear you say.
I am making a choice to walk steadfastly in God’s light and love in the Garden no matter what my surroundings present to me. I am making a choice to portray a bright and beautiful color from within me, which I pray will shine so brightly as to illuminate positively into my surroundings and make this world a better place to live. Will you join me?
Copyright © 2012. Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.