I am currently in Uganda. While I am gone, the Villager is rerunning some of my early favorites. The following column was first published on December 2, 2004.

People can really be a puzzle. By that I don’t mean they’re confusing, although they can be that, too – especially if they’re teenagers or members of the opposite sex.

What I’m talking about is more like a jigsaw puzzle, where every piece is a little different from every other one, even though they all have the same basic structure. Each piece is as important and necessary as every other one, whether it’s an edge piece, a corner, or one of those annoying little wavy pieces that won’t stay where it belongs until it’s connected to all the other ones around it.

Sometimes it’s hard to find two pieces that will fit together at all. Or it may be difficult to believe that two particular pieces even belong to the same puzzle, because they seem so different from each other. Sometimes you try forcing pieces together that look like they should fit but don’t. And other times you might find pieces that don’t look like they belong together, but turn out to be a perfect fit.

People can be like that, too.

A friend of mine brought this up recently, during a conversation about mutual friends and how they were connected to each other through a number of different people.

That’s when she compared them to a jigsaw puzzle. I like the comparison, and I think there’s something we can all learn from it. It’s not really about people or puzzle pieces fitting together – or even about finding where we belong in relation to each other. It’s just realizing that we do belong. That we’re all part of the same big picture, even if we can’t always see it. And even when we don’t have any idea how, where, or why we’re connected to other people whose looks, beliefs, accent and politics are so different from our own.

Maybe we should all start thinking of ourselves as pieces of a puzzle – a really big puzzle. If we did that, we might be better able to see and remember that every one is as valuable as every other. That even though some have more prominent roles, like the corners that anchor the rest of the pieces together, it takes every one – working side by side and holding on to each other – to put the picture together the way it’s supposed to be.

I’m going to try to remember this whenever I come across other puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit, or to belong in the same puzzle I’m in. I’ll accept that they’re just in a different section of the puzzle, or that they make up a different part of the scenery. We may be at opposite ends of the big picture, or just a few rows apart. Either way, it’s important for all of us to be there.

So maybe people aren’t so puzzling after all. We simply need to figure out how and where we all fit together.

Or we just need to remember that we do.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on August 21, 2014. ©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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