Recently we had a long road trip so we listened to an audio book. The title is American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things. The author is Bob Dotson who spent 40 years working for the Today Show on NBC and searching America for stories of people doing good things. In the book he shares one inspiring story after another. The characters are very normal people, grandmothers, truck drivers, policemen and so on. Most find a higher purpose and then they become positive deviants, people who deviate from the norm so as to contribute in positive ways.
A grandmother is left with a crack baby and ends up taking in hundreds of crack babies. She learns how to help both the babies and the mothers change their lives. A truck driver gets a job cleaning a lab and begins inventing better surgical tools. He ends up teaching doctors how to do surgery. A policeman works in a hospital in a ward with children who are going to die. He hold conversations, learns their dreams, and ends up raising money for one child after another to visit the ocean, to go to Disney World, or to have some other desired experience before passing away.
The stories go on and on. As I listened, an old proverb returned to me, “Bloom where you are planted.” That is what these people seemed to do. Often they took a challenging or even negative situation, that someone else might seek to avoid, and they transformed it so that positive things began to emerge. As a listener I was particularly taken by the fact that everyone has the potential to make a positive difference in the world. I was struck by the importance of playing a role that might help more people to become positive deviants. Such a role is worth pursuing and I am grateful for the reminder to not only become a positive deviant, but to also nurture positive deviance.