Record Store Day is an annual event, which began in the United States and now takes place on every continent except Antarctica. This year’s Record Store Day takes place later this month on Saturday 22nd April. It celebrates the unique atmosphere of local record stores, which are once again growing in popularity thanks to the resurgence of interest in music on vinyl. If you are, or were, a frequenter of record stores, the appeal isn’t difficult to understand. Take this comment from John Stark of Flagstaff, Arizona: “Record shops totally fascinate me. I can dawdle and browse for hours, discover long sought after rarities and gems, feel at home, spend more than anticipated. It’s in my genes.”, or this one from Howard Hart, the guitarist from San Diego: “When I walk into an old, indie-owned record shop, I’m transported back to a truly happy place.”
I myself have happy memories from my teenage years of hours spent browsing in Kath Jones’ record shop here in the UK. It was basically a large, wooden hut filled with rows of tables, groaning under the weight of cardboard boxes stuffed with singles and LP’s of every musical genre. But today as I write, my thoughts go back to my childhood, to one of my first ever discs; it was the soundtrack of the family film “Hans Christian Andersen” starring Danny Kaye. For me, one of its most memorable tracks was “The Ugly Duckling“; just one of the many tales written by the real Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author and storyteller of the Nineteenth Century.
“The Ugly Duckling” is a story with a message. It tells of a duckling, the largest, ugliest and last to hatch of all its siblings. Ridiculed and bullied by the rest of the farmyard because it was different, it flew away. “They are afraid of me because I am ugly,” he said. So he closed his eyes, and flew still farther,” During the next few months, the duckling encountered much hostility and misunderstanding. A pompous hen advised him to conform and be like “half the world” if he wanted to be accepted. Then one spring day, paddling down a stream, he met a group of three magnificent swans. Compared with his ugliness, their beauty made him more unhappy than ever. He had endured so much that he didn’t care what the swans reaction to him would be. So he sailed up to them, prepared for the worst. Hanging his head, he suddenly noticed his reflection in the water and was amazed at what he saw, “no longer a dark, grey bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan.” The other swans swum around him in welcome. “He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds.”
I hope you will understand if I say that many of us are ugly ducklings. We are criticised and pushed about by others, expected to conform if we are to get anywhere in life, and we fail to recognise that we are of infinite worth, and have a unique set of talents. We are the pinnacle of our Creator’s work, called to a relationship with Him, and here to reflect His love to a broken world. Each one of us is unique. Yes, we fail and mess-up from time to time, but we all have an in-built capacity to love and to care, to protect and provide. We are truly beautiful.
Some people base their self-worth on their looks, their talents, their social status or their financial position, but these things are fleeting. Neither should we value ourselves by the negative opinions of others, but instead we can recognise that we are loved by the One who made us. As the ancient scriptures say:
“The Lord your God … is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with His love.”
Zephaniah 3:17 (CEV)
“You’re a very fine swan indeed!”