BOB LOVED to make people happy. Bob lived to make people happy. If people weren’t happy, Bob wasn’t happy. So every day Bob set out to make people happy. Not an easy task, for what makes some people happy makes other people angry.
Bob lived in a land where everyone wore coats. The people never removed their coats. Bob never asked Why? He only asked Which? “Which coat should I wear?”
Bob’s mother loved blue. So to please her he wore a blue coat. When she would see him wearing blue she would say, “Yay, Bob! I love it when you wear blue.” So he wore the blue coat all the time. And since he never left his house and since he saw no one but his mother, he was happy and she said “Yay, Bob” over and over.
Bob grew up and got a job. The first day of his job he got up early and put on his best blue coat and walked down the street.
The crowds on the street, however, didn’t like blue. They liked green. Everyone on the street wore green. As he walked past, everyone looked as his blue coat and said, “Yuck!”
Yuck! Was a hard word for Bob to hear. He felt guilty that he had caused a “yuck” to come out of a person’s mouth. He loved to hear “yay!” He hated to hear “yuck!”
When the people saw his blue coat and said “yuck,” Bob dashed into a clothing store and bought a green coat. He put it on over his blue coat and walked back out in the street. “Yay!” the people shouted as he walked past. He felt better because he had made them feel better.
When he arrived at his workplace, he walked into his boss’s office wearing a green coat. “Yuck!” said his boss.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Bob, quickly removing the green coat and revealing the blue. “You must be like my mother.”
“Double yuck!” responded the boss. He got up from his chair, walked to the closet, and produced a yellow coat. “We like yellow here,” he instructed.
“Whatever you say, sir,” Bob answered, relieved to know he wouldn’t have to hear his boss say “yuck” anymore. He put the yellow coat over the green coat, which was over the blue coat. And so he went to work.
When it was time for him to go home, he replaced the yellow coat with the green and walked through the streets. Just before he got to his house, he put the blue coat over the green and yellow coats and went inside.
Bob learned that life with three coats was hard. His movements were stiff, and he was always hot. There were also times, when the cuff of one coat would peek out and someone would notice, but before the person could say “yuck” Bob would tuck it away.
One day he forgot to change his coat before he went home, and when his mother saw green she turned purple with disgust and started to say, “Yuck.” But before she could, Bob ran and put his hand on
her mouth and held the word in while he traded coats and then removed his hand so she said, “Yay!”
It was at this moment that Bob realized he had a special gift. He could change his colors with ease. With a little practice, he was able to shed one coat and replace it with another in a matter seconds.
Even Bob didn’t understand his versatility, but he was pleased with it. For now he could be any color anytime and please every person.
His skill at changing coats quickly elevated him to high positions. Everyone liked him because everyone thought he was just like them. With time he was elected mayor over the entire city.
His acceptance speech was brilliant. Those who loved yellow thought he was wearing yellow, and his mother just knew he was wearing blue. Only he knew that he was constantly changing from one to the other.
It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, because at the end everyone said, “Yay!”
Bob’s multicolored life continued until one day some yellow-coated people stormed into his office. “We have found a criminal who needs to be executed,” they announced, shoving a man toward
Bob’s desk. Bob was shocked at what he saw. The man wasn’t wearing a coat at all, just a T-shirt.
“Leave him with me,” Bob instructed, and the yellow coats left.
“Where is your coat?” asked the mayor.
“I don’t wear one.”
“You don’t have one?”
“I don’t want one.”
“You don’t want a coat? But everyone wears a coat. It, it, it’s the way things are here.”
“I’m not from here.”
“What coat do they wear where you are from?”
Bob looked at the man with amazement. “But what if people don’t approve?”
“It’s not their approval I seek.”
Bob had never heard such words. He didn’t know what to say. He’d never met a person without a coat. The man with no coat spoke again.
“I am here to show people they don’t have to please people. I am here to tell the truth.”
If Bob had ever heard of the word truth, he’d long since rejected it. “What is truth?” he asked.
But before the man could answer, people outside the mayor’s office began to scream, “Kill him! Kill him!”
A mob gathered outside the window. Bob went to it and saw the crowd was wearing green.
Putting on his green coats, he said, “There is nothing wrong with this man.”
“Yuck!” they shouted. Bob fell back at the sound.
By then the yellow coats were back in his office. Seeing them, Bob changed his colors and pleaded, “The man is innocent.”
“Yuck!” they proclaimed. Bob covered his ears at the word.
He looked at the man and pleaded, “Who are you?”
The man answered simply, “Who are you?”
Bob did not know. But suddenly he wanted to. Just then his mother, who’d heard of the crisis, entered the office. Without realizing it, Bob changed to blue. “He is not one of us,” she said.
A torrent of voice came from all directions. Bob again covered his ears and looked at the man with no coat. The man was silent. Bob was tormented. “I can’t please them and set you free!” he shouted over their screams.
The man with no coat was silent.
“I can’t please you and them!”
Still the man was silent.
“Speak to me!” Bob demanded.
The man with no coat spoke with one word. “Choose.”
“I can’t!” Bob declared. He threw up his hands and screamed, “Take him, I wash my hands of the choice.”
But even Bob knew in making no choice he had made one. The man was led away, and Bob was left alone. Alone with his coats.
Echoes of Thunder
1. “Now Bob could be any color, any time, and please every person.”
A. If you were asked to pick one word to describe Bob, what would it be? Why would you pick this word?
B. Why are we sometimes tempted to act like Bob?
2. “Everyone liked him because everyone thought he was just like them.”
A. Why do we like others who seem just like us?
B. What is the huge trap concealed in this kind of attitude?
3. “ ‘It’s not their approval I seek,’ said the man.”
A. Who does this man represent? Why do you think so?
B. Whose approval do you seek? Why?
4. “ ‘I am here to show people they don’t have to please people,’ the man said. ‘I am here to tell the truth.’”
A. Have you ever felt as if you had to please people? If so, why did you feel this way?
B. What is they best way of reminding ourselves we don’t have to please people?