The story about Katie was so moving that I decided to write a comment on her Mom's blog. For anyone who's interested, here's what I posted:
Hi Katie (and family)!
My name is Mike, I'm Jewish too and I live in San Francisco and I work at the company that creates Star Wars!
I saw your article today on CNN and came to visit your Mom's site. Your Mom is so proud of you and it made me very teary-eyed to read her story. You have a great family. :)
I came from a little town in Canada, but now I live in the big and awesome city of San Francisco and I get to make movies and tv shows for a living that excite and inspire little girls and boys all around the world (like you!) This is a dream come true for me, but it was never easy to be different for me, either. What I've learned is, the people who are different are the ones who really make a difference in this world.
I grew up in a small town called London, but not the one in England - my town is also called London but it is in Ontario, Canada, near Toronto. I knew I loved Computers from when I was even younger than you! I was totally fascinated with them. I even helped other kids in my Kindergarten class learn how to use the Commodore 64 computer in our classroom. That computer was very old compared to what computer you have in your house now - it didn't even have the Internet or a CD or DVD drive!
My parents immigrated to Canada and they always encouraged me to be different. To this day I still have a poster that my Dad hung in our Computer room when I was growing up that says "Dare to be different." It has a whole lot of green apples on it, and only one red one. Guess who is the red one? Me. My family. And You! Being the "red apple" can be very, very hard sometimes, as you've seen.
It's very tough when you believe in something or are enthusiastic about something you like and other people are mean to you about it. When I was your age, my parents kept encouraging me to be myself, and to ignore other kids who said mean things to me. My parents explained that the other kids maybe were just embarrassed that they didn't like things as much as me, and they weren't as motivated or as hard-working as me. Those good characteristics about me made the teachers really like me, but had the opposite effect on many of the kids in my class. This was always hard and I wanted to be popular and cool and I wanted to fit in. But even more than that, I wanted to be myself. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I was going to achieve it, and some silly kids making some silly comments wasn't going to change how I felt about myself. I learned to shrug off mean comments, and I learned to follow my own heart and dreams - to "march to the beat of my own drum", like you are discovering. This is an incredible skill but you need to be very proactive to maintain it. You should always continue to improve this skill - your personal sense of your own self-worth - all your life.
The great Rabbi Zusya of the 18th Century said, “The Almighty will not ask me why I was not as bold as our forefather Abraham; He will not ask me why I was not a leader like Moses. He will turn to me and say: ‘Zusha, why were you not more like Zusha?’” What I think he means is that you should not spend your life trying to attain the dreams and successes of others - rather, you should be yourself with all your energy. You should be aware of yourself. You should be confident in your own decisions - like deciding to ignore the bullies and take your favourite Star Wars lunch bottle back to school. Good for you!
Keep up the awesome work :) Remember to always be proud of who you are - a red apple!
Mike Jutan :)