Ollie and Molly were identical twins. Their parents divorced; each took a baby and moved to a different state. Ollie was raised in Northwest South Dakota. Molly was brought up in Southeast North Dakota.
Molly’s schoolmates teased her about her physical characteristics and her lackluster academic performance. They called her gawky, ugly, and stupid. Molly accepted the verdict and acted accordingly.
The same nicknames were aimed at Ollie, but she did not answer to them. Her confidence came from inside. She proved to be an honest and reliable person. She became well liked and highly regarded, yet she never consciously courted popularity.
Even though the two were identical in every physical way, it was easy to tell them apart. Everything from their posture to their vocabulary gave them away. At the yearly family gatherings, it did not take more than five seconds to figure out which was which. Molly avoided Ollie because she did not feel herself a worthy companion for such a fine person as her twin. She felt clumsy and uncool in Ollie’s presence. She felt too short and too homely to hang around with her duplicate. Ollie wanted to help, but Molly would not give her a chance.
Ollie grew up, went to college, fell in love with a great guy, had a wonderful career, and a happy life.
Molly became the town drunk and did silly things like riding cows down Main Street.
Ollie had Molly checked into a rehab facility and visited her frequently. On one such visit, they were sitting in the garden. Ollie called her sister’s attention to the hummingbirds and the buzzing bees. She asked Molly, “Would those birds and bees be attracted to artificial flowers?”
“I suppose not,” Molly replied, “at least not for long.”
“Well, there’s nothing in the plastic flowers that they want.”
“So,” Ollie said, “regardless of physical appearances, what attracts or repels others is what’s inside.”
Molly didn’t know what to say, but Ollie read the question in her sister’s eyes.
“Look around,” Ollie suggested. “You will see happy people in all shapes and sizes. You see happy couples representing every body type, color, and feature. You see, it’s not our physical characteristics that make us attractive or not—at least not to anyone you’d want to hang around with. What makes one person attractive and another not is the person’s attitude and values. We attract to us the friends, mates, and situations that exist at our own level. Nothing can change until we do, and I don’t mean superficial outer changes. If people would spend one tenth of the energy that they spend trying to change their outer selves—everything from weird diets to expensive surgeries—if they would spend one tenth as much energy working on their inner lives, they would see transformations that would seem like powerful magic. But it’s not magic, Sis, it’s the most natural thing in the world, once we know how the world works.”
(Originally published in The Lonesome Wizard Boys' Campfire Tales)