This I Believe

Margaret - Bartlett, Illinois
Entered on October 26, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

It is easy to judge. Labels and epithets trickle freely into the brain and, on occasion, fly unbidden from the tongue. We interpret a stranger’s character after only a moment’s acquaintance; we classify men and women as though they are stamps or some other collectible object.

I judge. I admit it. But I believe in trying to view all of humanity through the same untainted glass, devoid of preconceived notions and stereotypes. After all, there is so much more to a person than meets the eye. Or the ear.

I have been wrestling with this issue for many years now. It really began when I started keeping journals; I was an avid journaler when I was little, devoted to recording my every emotion and the most mundane facts about my day-to-day life. On those rare occasions when I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I would usually fall to making this list: “Things I Like” versus “Things I Hate.” The “Things I Like” column invariably contained “my family,” “my friends,” “reading,” and “writing.” The “Things I Hate” column was always more of a laugh: “bananas,” “chores,” “being disturbed from reading,” and “burglars” were often present.

And then there is this, the only item that has appeared on every single “Things I Hate” list I have ever written: “people – mainly boys – who smack their lips while chewing.” Lip smacking has always been a pet-peeve of mine. The sight of someone dismembering a piece of food between open jaws is hideous, to be sure, but it’s the sound – the wet, sucking, smacking sound – that gets under my skin and ties my nerves in knots. And, for some reason, the smacking is always more repulsive when boys do it.

In the old days, I had no problem classifying all lip smackers as “Things I Hate.” I always knew who the worst smackers were in my class, and avoided them like the Ebola virus whenever it was time to choose seats for lunch. To me, lip smacking was enough to cancel out all of a person’s positive attributes; if Abraham Lincoln had sat down next to me, opened his lunchbox, and started smacking, I would certainly have moved.

It was impossible, however, to isolate myself from lip smackers all together. As the years went by, I was forced to get to know some of them. And when I did, I made an astonishing discovery: they were actually good people. I had never imagined that kind hearts, brilliant minds, and caring spirits might be hiding behind their smacking lips. I grew ashamed of myself for putting them on the “Things I Hate” list, and never made one again.

My battle with rapid judgement is still ongoing. But I hope that my change of heart about lip smackers proves I am one step closer to an open mind – the open mind that I believe all of us should strive for.