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Under Cover Ugly Ducklings
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 • Posted April 1, 2011 2:20 PM

There are many swans out there working under cover as ugly ducklings.

I recently attended the annual convention of Mannatech, Inc., a research and development company that markets patented nutritional supplements along with weight loss and skin care products. During the course of the convention we were introduced to a skinny, non-descript but vivacious, feisty, young dark-haired girl by the name of Tzu-chun Lin, of Taiwan.

In order to study at the university level in Taiwan, it is necessary to pass a very stringent qualifying exam. Although she studied very hard she missed making the qualifying grade by a large margin. At first she was devastated. In order to make ends meet, she joined the Mannatech team as an associate and went to work building a multi-level network of consumers. At age 19, her income far exceeds that of any college professor in her homeland. She is, however, determined to obtain that college degree and will undoubtedly one day make the grade.

One of the most remarkable of swans in ugly duckling guise has got to be Susan Boyle. When she was born, her Scottish mother was 47 years old. Susan was briefly deprived of oxygen during the difficult birth. She was later diagnosed with "learning difficulties" and was bullied as a child. She was nicknamed "Susie Simple" by schoolmates. Susan loved to sing in her local Catholic church choir and eventually was able to acquire some limited vocal training and experience.

On April 11, 2009, she made an appearance on the reality T.V. program, "Britain’s Got Talent." Ten million viewers watched as she bumbled her way across the stage dressed in what appeared to be a common house dress, with little or no makeup, overweight and seemingly without a clue as to what was expected of her. The audience was initially hostile toward her because of her appearance and the judges were noticeably cynical.

What a wake up call! The first notes out of her mouth literally made jaws drop as she belted out in a crystal clear, operatic voice "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables." She became an overnight sensation and is now a noted figure in the recording industry in Europe and in the United States. She has been called a role model for everyone who has a dream, "heart-touching, thrilling and uplifting."

In May of 2010, Susan Boyle was voted by Time Magazine as the seventh most influential person in the world, fourteen places above U.S. President Barack Obama, who received one fifth of her votes.

Swans disguised as ugly ducklings are all around us. Just the other day a neighbor made available to me some caliche dirt that I needed to pave a roadway into some property I own. I borrowed a heavy-duty back-hoe equipped with a rather large bucket up front. I proceeded to fumble my way to the caliche pile using unfamiliar controls and made some feeble attempts to fill that bucket with the dirty white stuff. The cavalry came to my rescue in the form of fourteen-year-old Blanco Middle School student James McFarlin. He informed me that his father had taught him how to handle that kind of equipment and his offer of assistance was reluctantly accepted. To my astonishment, he handled the job like a pro. He wasn’t kidding when he told me he knew how to operate that kind of equipment.

When my wife found out that I was riding shotgun to a teen-aged heavy equipment operator, she made me cease and desist. But that was O.K. I had observed James long enough so that I was able to do a much better job of moving and spreading that pile of dirt on my own.

I remember as a lad watching some huarache-clad "peones" dismantle and re-assemble the transmission of a large, long-haul truck at the side of a remote highway in Mexico. They persisted in performing a complex mechanical operation right there on the side of the road with nothing but a box of crude tools, a lot of sweat and a lot more moxie than I could have ever mustered. I remember thinking with admiration, "I could never do that!"

I decided then and there that almost everybody I meet has some skill, quality or ability that I lack. I learned that I was in no position to judge another solely by appearances or first impressions. That no account "ugly duckling" just might turn out to be a beautiful swan in disguise.

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