My Favorite Shade of Green
Updated: Oct 19
A Colorful Question
In the part of the United States where I grew up, kids are frequently grilled on a variety of subjects which are considered essential for polite conversation. While topics such as the weather are reserved for adult chit-chat, kids get supposedly simpler questions such as "What's Your Favorite Animal?" and the infamous "What's Your Favorite Color?" As a result, it is expected that by the time those same kids have matured into grown-up small talk, they will have outgrown the topic of colors. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Big Purpose of Small Talk
It is a strange thing that small talk achieves two entirely different purposes in children and adults. On the one hand, small talk encourages kids to be unique and different. By leaving questions open-ended, child-like questions such as "What is your favorite color?" invite creativity and exploration. Yet adult questions such as "What do you think of the weather?" enforce sameness and homogeneity. Kids are rewarded for providing unusual answers to the color question, but adults are all expected to provide the exact same weather report. How come kids gets to have all the fun when it comes to small talk? Why can't adults answer the question of color?
Kids and Color
Imagine for a moment the start of a new schoolyear at a preschool. The kids crowd around their teacher as she learns each of their names, and then she asks them one by one to name their favorite color.
For most of the schoolkids, the colors they choose are uninspired. Some of them are picking the color of their backpack or their t-shirt. Others are copying the colors that other kids said. Either way, the teacher will have a fairly small pallet of colors to work with. Chances are that if the teacher repeated the question tomorrow, many of the children would have a different answer. But now imagine something completely different.
Adults and Color
Instead of the preschool, now imagine the new employee orientation at a law firm. A team of about a dozen junior legal aides walks into a wood-paneled conference room on the eighteenth floor of a downtown office building. They each take a seat at the oval table and await instruction.
The Human Resources manager walks in and begins handing out folders of health-insurance paperwork. The fresh-faced employees are trying to look cool, calm, and confident while sneaking peeks at their colleagues. Everyone is dressed in business professional attire, which means mostly black and white with splashes of dark red or navy blue. But then, the manager turns around to face the group and asks them an unexpected question: "What's your favorite color?"
Shades of Meaning
When it comes down to it, adults are uniquely empowered to answer such a deeply introspective question. To begin with, they have a large vocabulary gleaned from their life experience. While a young child might only know ten basic colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, white, pink, etc.), adults can describe hundreds of different hues. This is not to say that kids are unable to distinguish the subtle different in shades of color; instead, they simply don't have the ability to describe to others what they have seen.
However, it is almost certainly true that adults also have more established preferences when it comes to color. Not only are they less likely to change their answer when asked about their favorite color, but they are also far more likely to know exactly what their favorite color is. Since adults have specific experiences, emotions, and thoughts that influence their favorite color, color serves as a convenience and intriguing jumping-off point for starting conversations about upbringing, employment history, and even physical disabilities.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Before I go any further, it is important to take a moment to acknowledge the miracle of sight. While nearly all of the people I have known can see a wide variety of colors clearly and distinctly, not all of them can. For those who are blind or experience low-vision, it can be extremely difficult or practically impossible to see color (or even light, for that matter). One such individual is Matthew Shifrin, who was born blind.
Despite his lack of physical sight, Matthew has an astounding amount of insight into the world around him. So much so, that he has written and performed a six-part limited podcast series called "Blind Guy Travels" all about his experiences and adventures (I highly recommend a listen).
Through his open and honest discussion of physical blindness, Michael makes it clear that descriptive language is a valuable and often under-utilized tool. Just because someone can't see colors or often confuses certain colors with one another doesn't mean they can't enjoy the world around them. In fact, I would argue that the blind may appreciate the world even more than the rest of us, since they do not take their other senses for granted.
I also recognize that while most people aren't entirely blind, many people don't have the vision insurance or disposable income to afford corrective eyewear or surgery to fix their vision impairment. I have been deeply blessed with both prescription contact lenses and glasses to correct my near-sightedness, and as a result, I can see color clearly (although research suggests that women, on average, can see more colors than men). It is a goal of mine to take a moment every day to remind myself to be grateful that I can see the world around me. Yes, I am grateful that I can afford glasses. But I am even more grateful that glasses are all I need to correct my vision.
Could You Be More Specific?
Now that we've appreciated the miracle of sight and understood how adults are uniquely empowered to appreciate the nuances of color, let's revisit that group of new hires in our imaginary law firm's conference room. The HR manager has just asked a group of employees the unexpected question: "What's your favorite color?"
Some brave soul raises their hand hesitantly. "Blue." A conservative choice, perhaps chosen to avoid attracting any unwanted criticism for their choice. If not an honest answer, at least a solid one. Everyone else around the conference table nods appreciatively, perhaps thinking their own personal color preference to be far superior.
The HR manager smiles encouragingly. "Can you be a bit more...specific?"
The first individual hesitates and then clarifies. "Soft light blue, almost like seafoam green, but... bluer. Kind of like the color of the ocean crashing on the shore of a tropical island, but more translucent."
From the glaze that has passed over everyone's eyes, it is clear that they are envisioning the sparkling blue waters of a Caribbean beach. Everyone looks to see what response the HR manager has to this more specific answer. To their surprise, the manager is smiling broadly. "Very descriptive. I can almost picture it, like from my last vacation to Hawaii. Do you like going to the beach?"
The sea-foam blue individual nods. "I prefer surfing to staying on the beach, actually."
A second individual raises their hand. "My favorite color is deep burnt yellowish-orange, the color of maple leaves as they fall off the trees in autumn. It reminds me of the way the leaves crunch underfoot and the way the cool air feels on my face as I walk my dog."
And just like that, the tension in the room drains away. Everyone begins to feel at home in the conference room and much more comfortable with their fellow employees. With surprisingly little effort, the HR manager has managed to make everyone feel more open and willing to share a piece of their life with the others. If I was in the room, I'd be just as eager to share my favorite color. But I'm not sure I could put a name to it.
My Favorite Shade of Green
It is no secret that the color I missed the most when working at Disneyland down in Southern California was green. While Disneyland has more green than the rest of Anaheim combined, it certainly doesn't compare to the lush verdance of my hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Green is the color of growth, youth, and vitality. It reminds me of shade, refreshment, and renewal. However, since green is such a naturally-occurring color, there are almost as many different shades of green as grains of sand on the seashore. That's why I need to provide the following very specific examples of my favorite shade of green:
As a custodian, I see a lot of different plastic containers. Although I don't drink carbonated beverages, I couldn't help but notice that Pepsi uses my favorite shade of green for the caps on their bottles of Major Melon flavored Mountain Dew:
Based on some of my previous blog posts, you already know that I'm something of a LEGO nerd. It should could as no surprise, then, that the best terminology I have for my favorite shade of green comes directly from The LEGO Group, which calls this shade "lime green." Lime Green bricks were used extensively in the Power Miners themed sets, as well as other random pieces in the LEGO City and LEGO Friends line of building toys.
The language-learning app Duolingo uses my favorite shade of green for their owl mascot, Duo, as well as for positive affirmation.
Pre-Paid Phone Plans
My monthly prepaid phone plan mobile service provider SimpleMobile has plastered my favorite shade of green all over its website and marketing materials (hmm...maybe that's why I like it so much...):
(While I am not trying to sell you a SimpleMobile phone plan, you can get a significant discount and extra rewards points by using the code in the following flyer):
What's Your Favorite Color?
Now that I've shared my favorite color (and more specifically, my favorite shade of green), it's your turn. What color makes you smile, or calms you down, or inspires you? More importantly, take a moment to consider why it is so special to you. Is the color linked to a particular event or person? Just as everyone has a unique thumbprint, they also have different color preferences. Take some time today to find examples of the shade of color that makes you one-of-a-kind. After all, God invented color. Let's use it to appreciate His creation.