This I Believe: that there is something to be admired in everyone. The world would have us think that only those who possess fame, money or authority are really worth something. Because of this, we wander through life judging people by the amount of money they have, whether they wear expensive clothes from the most popular stores, the amount of power they hold, or who they know and hang out with. If upon first glance a stranger doesn’t have any of these, we tend to not give them any more of our time or attention. But what if we took a second glance at those people and really tried to find something attractive about them? What would we notice that we didn’t the first time? For instance, what if the next time we looked at that little old lady, who’s known for talking incessantly, we ignored our first impulse to label her a “chatter box” and took note of what she was saying; would we hear something more than the constant droning of her voice? Perhaps we’d have something in common with her or maybe even learn something from her. Suppose she just needs someone to talk to because she’s been lonely for so long. When we think about these possibilities, she’s no longer a “chatter box,” but an experienced human being with something to share. I went to school with a handicapped boy. He wore braces on his legs and walked in an awkward way, with his arms bent up toward his chest. When kids saw him, their first impression was, he’s handicapped. That means there’s something wrong with him, right? That may be what we think at first glance, but look again. We overlooked those deep blue eyes and that smile that could challenge even the most attractive movie stars’. We didn’t recognize the determination he has to try things that are difficult for even the most fit and able-bodied. We took for granted the gift he has for making others feel good about themselves. Now he’s not just “the handicapped kid.” He’s someone we all want for a friend. There are so many more examples: the girl everyone thought was stuck-up because she rarely talked to anyone outside her little group of friends, when really, she’s just shy around people she doesn’t know; or the man who creeps us out because he looks at us so intently, when he is only hoping for a smile to cheer his day. I’m a horrible first-glance adjudicator. I know how terrible it feels to find out how wrong first impressions can be. Some of my fondest memories and greatest life lessons have come from experiences where I was quick to judge and vastly mistaken in my assumptions. Some of my closest friends are people I labeled incorrectly the first time. We all make silly and sometimes rash judgments, but what if we could change that about ourselves? It’s comforting to know we can, thanks to second chances and second glances.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.