Rayon Houndstooth Faille was an ordinary, unusual and cerebral boy. He was also a lonely boy who really lived his life inside his own mind. Rayon didn’t remember his parents but he was always told by his Granny who raised him that he was smart and insightful and tragically beautiful and that the world was not ready for his brilliance.
Rayon was born with a crooked neck. His head fell to the side until his left ear almost rested on his shoulder. He wore a large, heavy, shiny, sparkly, colourful earring in his right ear every day because the weight of it pulled his head to the right so that it looked like his neck was straight. Along with his large, heavy, shiny, sparkly, colourful right side earring, he wore brightly coloured houndstooth pants, a white chiffon tunic, a leather jacket missing one sleeve, a red pork pie hat and rubber boots covered with bugs. Not real bugs. Painted on bugs. He also wore hockey gloves at all times. These gloves made him feel safe. They also hid his other secret. Rayon had flat round hands with no fingers – like a gingerbread man. He could not type or write or make anything with his hands. He felt that he needed to express his colourful, delightful, alarming, fantastical and utterly unique to him, thoughts and dreams to the world in the way that he dressed. He needed to express his creativity, joy, sorrow, frustration, loneliness and wonder.
Rayon did not go to school or have any friends. Granny had taught him all she could and wasn’t sure what was next…but Rayon already had a dream. He had seen a poster about something can The Big Association. It said that the B.A. was a special group of people. His Granny had always told him he was special and he hoped that the B.A. was a place where he could belong.
He went to an information session about B.A. membership. It was in a large hall full of people. He had never seen so many people in one place and although he did not notice at first most of them were looking at him. They would look away if he caught their eye, or they would whisper to others sitting near them. This was puzzling to Rayon. He had never been around so many people and he didn’t understand what they were talking about. He sat quietly in a chair at the side of the room but no one came to sit near him or talk to him.
A woman named Dr. Smart went to the microphone and welcomed everyone to the meeting. She explained how beneficial B.A. membership was to a person’s development and future success. She explained that each applicant must attend a workshop where they would be asked to write a statement about why they should be granted membership in the B.A.
Rayon didn’t understand…how would be be able to write a statement? He couldn’t write. At the end of the meeting he asked Dr. Smart if he could mail in his application and statement (he would get Granny to write it down for him). Dr. Smart was quick to respond – “Oh no there is only one way to gain membership…you must write your statement and you must do it at the application workshop. We could not have you mail it in – how would we know it was your words. No, no, our membership application policy is very specific, it has been very carefully developed and considered, it is considered best practice in membership application circles, it has been reviewed and approved by our B.A. board, it is important that all members be held to the same criteria and process, we are a professional organization that must have standards, all potential members must be able to meet our membership standards, if we did not have carefully considered policies and standards and hold all membership applicants to these standards who could trust the quality of our organization. We have quality to maintain, to ensure that we are credible. Our very existence depends on our quality, credibility, trustworthiness, consistency of application, etc. If you cannot meet the important, carefully considered, credible, trusted, best practice standards you cannot hope to be admitted to the B.A. You wouldn’t want to be in a B.A. that wasn’t operated in such a professional and credible manner, believe me. Well good luck to you and thank you so much for coming.”
Rayon went outside and sat down. He was so sad. She was right – he only wanted to be part of a great professional, quality, credible organization like the B.A. and he could not meet the standards. He could not write down his statement. He pulled his red hat down over his eyes as he started to feel tears coming to the surface.
A man approached him. “Allow me to introduce myself young man, I am Stu Fairbanks, I am the proprietor of Pine Street East Bridgeworks – here is my card. Actually I am the Owner, Operator and Chief Structural Engineer; Manager of Fittings, Tools, Building Materials and Conduit; Vice President of People, Places and Things; and Coordinator of Customer Support, Service and Assistance. I know that it’s a long title but that’s what I do. It really is just me. I run the whole show. I am Pine Street Bridgeworks. You look like you could use some support, service or assistance. How can I help you?”
Rayon told Stu about his dream to be a B.A. member and his crooked neck and his gingerbread hands and his inability to live up to the quality, credibility, consistency standards. Stu listened and asked some questions and said, “this is quite a conundrum but you seem to be just the sort of fellow that the B.A. needs”. Stu could sense that Rayon Houndstooth Faille was special. Special in a way that he had not encountered before and Stu had met a lot of interesting people in his line of work. “Let me think about how I can help. You know that I build bridges. Not just solid wood and steel bridges but all kinds of bridges – but I am getting ahead of myself. Will you meet me here again tomorrow and we can discuss your predicament further?”
As Stu headed back to his Pine Street East Bridgeworks truck he noticed Dr. Smart coming out of the building. “Hello Dr. Smart, allow me to introduce myself. I am Stu Fairbanks, I am the proprietor of Pine Street East Bridgeworks – here is my card. Actually I am the Owner, Operator and Chief Structural Engineer; Manager of Fittings, Tools, Building Materials and Conduit; Vice President of People, Places and Things; and Coordinator of Customer Support, Service and Assistance. I have met a young man who should be offered membership in the B.A. but cannot write down his statement.” Dr. Smart said, “Oh yes, I believe I talked to him – the fellow with the bugs on his boots. I explained that he cannot apply of he cannot meet our standards.” Stu asked her to explain why he needed to write his statement himself, in person, at the workshop. She explained that it was simply so that they knew that the words were his and no one else had written it for him. “We have our standards”, she said again.
Stu asked her if she would be willing to meet with him the next day to discuss the situation further and she reluctantly agreed, explaining that if he was expecting them to ignore the B.A. standards he would be wasting his time. They set a time for the next day.
Stu Fairbanks went back to his shop. He did not have very much time to build the bridge that would be required in this situation. He surveyed his bridge building materials and carefully chose the materials that were needed from his vast inventory. He was well known in the bridge building community to have some of the most unique and diverse materials in his warehouse. He pulled out the chosen materials and packed them up for his meetings the next day with Dr. Smart and Rayon.
When he met with Dr. Smart, he assured her that he had a way that Rayon could prepare his statement that would ensure that it would be his words and his words alone. He gave her the card from a company called “Just Writing Stuff Down”. All that was needed was for her to contact this company, select one of the Writer Downers (or W.D.s) from their roster and have this person attend the workshop. Rayon would say his statement to the W.D. and the W.D. would write it down word for word. She could pick the W.D. personally to ensure that it was someone who did not know Rayon. He also advised her that Writer Downers have a strict code of ethics as devised by the “National Association of Professionals Who Write Stuff Down”. “They have standards you know”, he said.
Rayon arrived the day of the application workshop based on encouragement and assurances Stu Fairbanks provided when they met. A person approached him who was very plainly dressed and carrying a suitcase full of paper, pens and pencils and introduced himself as Rayon’s dedicated Writer Downer. Dr. Smart explained to the staff that the W.D. would be writing down Rayon’s statement for submission. Rayon and his W.D. were shown to a small room with a glass door in view of the registration area.
Dr. Smart overheard staff asking questions and conversing about this highly unusual circumstance. James asked, “How can someone who looks so strange be allowed in the B.A.?” Jenna added, “Surely he will not be able to write a statement that will be competitive, assuming we can even understand what he has to say”. Cyrus chimed in, “I mean seriously, he has bugs on his boots and he is wearing hockey gloves”. In a quieter voice than the rest Millie said, “I don’t mean to be judgmental but isn’t he better suite for the S.A. (the Small Association), members of the S.A. seem to be a bit more…what’s the word…colourful…unusual…yes he should be referred to the S.A.”. But James disagreed, “he is just plain weird”. After a lengthy pause Tina, one of the newest and youngest members of the B.A. said hesitantly, “I think he is interesting and I feel sad that he only has one earring…maybe he can’t afford a second one”.
Rayon started talking and the Writer Downer started to write. Rayon kept talking and the Writer Downer kept writing. Rayon talked and talked and talked. He could almost not stop talking – no one had ever listened to him so intently or given him the opportunity to share his thoughts and opinions and ideas so completely and without interruption. When they were finished, his W.D. compiled all the pages and submitted them on Rayon’s behalf. Rayon thanked the W.D. and Stu and went home exhausted but content. He would wait some more.
That evening Dr. Smart decided to spend a bit of time reviewing the statements of the new member applicants while she had her evening meal. There were some excellent submissions. Clearly these applicants had done their homework and honed in on the core principles of the B.A. and what the B.A. was looking for in its members. She came across Rayon’s statement. Expecting to find little of merit she started to read. She read and read and read.
At some point something happened to her – she started to feel a bit unsettled; she noticed a single tear had started its long descent from her eye to her lip; for a moment it felt like she might be having a heart attack because it was as if her chest was opening up; and she started to feel an ache in her head that was not like any headache she had experienced before. There was no pain. It was an ache like you experience when you are hungry or you long for someone’s embrace…it was an ache for more. She had never read anything that so amused her and touched her and made her feel more human and more in touch with all around her that was not human. The beauty and brilliance of the words and thoughts and images and ideas caused her to openly weep and laugh with joy at the same time. She began to receive messages from others on the selection committee who had read Rayon’s submission. They all described feeling changed by it, feeling more love and optimism for the world and themselves and the future of their association. They had been changed.
Dr. Smart went to see Rayon at Stu’s office. She wanted to personally meet with him and invite him to join the B.A. She brought him a small gift. She asked him to not only join, but to become a special ambassador for the B.A. who would talk to people and communities about his thoughts and ideas and how the B.A. would commit to assisting members to find their voices. She handed him the gift box. He opened it and saw a large, heavy, shiny, sparkly, colourful, left side earring to match the one in his right ear. She told him about the young woman who speculated that maybe he could not afford a second earring and she was happy to have found one just like it. She asked him to accept it as a token of her thanks for changing her view of the world so completely with his statement.
He thanked her but explained to her why he wears only one earring and why he wears the gloves and cannot write things down. She felt a bit embarrassed and saddened that she had not asked him any questions when they first met so that she could better understand his unique experience of the world. She carefully took the earring out of the box and put it in her own left ear. It was heavy and the weight of it pulled her head sharply to one side. She told him she would wear it proudly as a reminder of what she had learned from him.
Rayon thanked her again for the invitation to serve as B.A. ambassador and for the gift she had given him. He accepted her offer.
After they left, Stu Fairbanks began packing up the bridge building materials to return them to the warehouse. The curiosity, flexibility and openness fit nicely into one big box. He packed a second box with his supply of creativity, dignity and patience. The understanding needed a box of its own as he had so much on hand. The last 6 boxes were filled to the brim with acceptance. After returning from the warehouse, Stu smiled, closed the file on his desk and locked up the office for the night.