Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Marc Elliot, a distinguished public speaker, talk about human tolerance in the Hogan Ballroom. Now before you shut your laptop or switch over to a new tab to go on Facebook or check email, this was no ordinary (read: boring) soapbox speech. Marc Elliot is one of the most inspiring and unique individuals I have ever come across. He was born with an incredibly rare disease that nearly took his life, leaving him with virtually no intestines. As if that wasn’t enough of a life challenge to handle, Elliot developed Tourette’s Syndrome as a child and continues to have what he describes as constant “itches” that need to be scratched through “ticking,” which could involve anything from yelling out “I love you!” to a trash can, to chomping his teeth loudly, to barking in public, and even screaming obscene and offensive words that he doesn’t mean to say. Marc Elliot stressed the importance of a phrase many may have heard before: “live and let live.” By sharing several experiences he’s had since his teenage years about encounters where complete strangers haven’t allowed him to be himself and have his tics (aka “letting live”), the speaker demonstrated how damaging and hurtful it can be if we are not at minimum tolerant of one another and our differences (though the ultimate goal would be to strive toward acceptance.)
His final message is really going to stick with me. Here is how I’m interpreting it: Every day, we are surrounded by people. Some we may know a little or a lot but most are total strangers. In our interactions with all of these many people we make assumptions about how they must be, based on their appearance or actions, when really we know next to nothing about who these people are or what they’re currently struggling with. Even the people closest to us may be concealing parts of themselves they are not as eager to share. As Marc Elliot said, we must first be accepting of ourselves and the way we are. After that, we can begin to tolerate and ultimately accept others around us because of an understanding that there is so much more to a person than what meets the eye.
I have a lot of inspiration, hope, and things to reflect on thanks to CAB Cross and Scroll bringing Marc Elliot to campus.