Last Sunday afternoon, we took our red-haired grand-kids, the Daltons, to the Jacksonville Symphony Family Series, featuring The Sneetches. There was a pre-concert Orchestra Zoo with dozens of kids standing in lines to bang on, blow into, or saw the strings of grown-up instruments.

Patrick and French Horn, Orchestra Zoo
Patrick & French Horn at the Orchestra Zoo
Jenna & Tuba at the Instrument Zoo

Jenna & Tuba at the Instrument Zoo

During the concert, the conductor asked each section of the orchestra to play a segment of a piece separately to let the kids hear the true sounds of the various instruments.Then came the pictorial story of the Sneetches animated on screen and read by a narrator, all accompanied by the whimsical strings, the complaining woodwinds, and the booming drums in Jacoby Symphony Hall.


If you need a brush-up on the Dr. Seuss plot line, two camps of yellow, fantastical creatures called Sneetches are separated by whether or not they have stars tattooed on their bellies. The Star-Belly Sneetches think they are best and make their Plain-Belly counterparts feel sad and inferior. Magically, Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along with his Star-on and Star-off machines. Now the Plain-Bellies are thrilled because they match the elite. But the original Star Bellies are angry because they no longer stand out as special. Now no one is happy.

Between the Star Bellies and the Plain-Bellies there is plenty of bad feeling to go around.  Then the conniving Star Bellies hatch an idea: Let’s get Sylvester McMonkey McBean to remove all the stars from bellies. Determined to find a solution, money from both belly camps gets stuffed into McBeans’ pockets, and he leaves town a rich monkey. Poorer in pocket, but richer in understanding, none of the Sneetches can remember who was what originally now that they all look the same. Finally, there is a level playing field.

The Sneetches’ conclusion: It doesn’t really matter what they look like—they can all be friends, stars or no stars. As the story ends, conviviality reigns.

In the car on the way home:

Jenna: “I really liked it! Those Sneetches were really cool, and they all liked each other at the end.”

Patrick: “It doesn’t matter what you look like. Everyone is the same.  Oh, and there’s another thing: Don’t give away all your money away for a dumb reason.”

Grandpa: “You are special whether you have a star on your belly or not.”

First of all, I wouldn’t want a star on my belly, would you? I wouldn’t want to draw attention to my worst feature whether it looked cool or not.

If you are human, you probably are a Sneetch, prone to some of the dark emotions these yellow bellies felt: feelings of inferiority, pride, dis-content, fear, frustration, and envy.

You may or may not agree with Alex Daydream (that has to be a pseudonym!) who claims that no emotion is strictly good or bad.

No Emotion Is Strictly Good Or Bad

Anger clouds our judgement
Love can make us blind
If emotions are so ruinous
What good one can I find?

Empathy makes us better people
Pain brings us back always stronger
Sadness gives way to happiness
Meaning a better life lived longer.

Alex Daydream
Some of the writer’s conclusions may be questionable (I have to wonder does “Pain bring us back always stronger”?) Growing up a Mennonite in the Longenecker family of Lancaster County, we children were not encouraged to show our real emotions, especially not in public. In my memory, there was a huge gulf between feeling emotions and being able to truly express them.
But what matters is what you think.
Were you encouraged to express your true feelings as a child?
As the poet claims, does allowing oneself to feel emotions make for a more meaningful life? What about expressing them?