Rocks vs Rubber Bands

“Do you want the rock or rubber band?”

On stage, three young people stood blinking in the bright lights. A lady on the older side of middle age presented them with the two objects. What did they choose? The rock with an engraved plaque, memorializing their years of active service in the community club? Or the rubber band, memorializing…well, an engineering wonder of looped elastic rubber?

Two members chose the rock; the other member chose the rubber band. That night, my age shy of double digits, choosing the household item felt ludicrous. But now, I think I understand.

The rock represented  “being grounded” and “standing up for what you believe”. The rubber band stood for “being flexible”, “knowing when to give”, and “being a team player”. Yes, the gifts were kitschy, but at least it was memorable.

Because here I am writing about it.

I want to be both: able to stay true to myself while staying open-minded. Standing up for what I believe, yet willing to stand down when I’m wrong. Choosing a path and committing to it, but also able to shift direction and perspective.

Balance. Yin and yang. Rock and rubber band. If I stood on stage and was presented with these two objects, I would have asked for both. How can you have rubber bands without rocks? Or rocks without rubber bands?

So why do I sympathize with the rubber-band-chooser? While working in education with young kids for the past four months, I have learned about one glaring character flaw: I lack rubber bands. Like I need the 200-pack, 1-pound box of rubber bands in my life. Mailing address below.

But seriously — staying flexible requires a healthy dose of selflessness. How are other people (or my little people) feeling? Thinking? What are they capable of right now? Capable of in a couple of hours? What do I need to do to help them reach their full capacity?

Now you’re on stage, the two gifts presented in outstretched hands.

Which do you choose?