I believe each human life can be likened to a unique book and as such should be valued and respected. Enter the old adage, “One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”. Judging others solely on external factors after a brief scan has often led me to form incorrect conclusions. My faulty conclusions then caused me to erect invisible barriers, imprisoning both the person I judged and me.
I’ve learned if I don’t take the time to open that book and get familiar with its contents, I’ll never know what treasures might lie within; I’ll never grow in my understanding of human nature and the wonders that abound inside each soul. Like book covers, people come in all varieties; some glossy, some plain; some worn, faded or even torn or creased. People-like books-are generally worth acknowledgment and respect, regardless of differences.
I learned this value as a small child and grew up naively thinking that everyone believed the same. Imagine my shock when I realized I was actually in the minority! Throughout my school years I learned the cruel truth as I witnessed people criticize those who were different. Later, working in the corporate world the tactics were subtler, but the judgments remained the same.
Like you, every day I encounter a variety of people moving in and out of my line of vision. And too often, I catch myself making value judgments about people based primarily on nationality, gender, disability, religion, occupation or the lack thereof.
But do I ever stop to think that the man in tattered clothes standing on the street corner was once a productive person who is temporarily destitute and truly needs help? Or do I instantly decide he is not worthy of my time because of his appearance? Would it kill me to acknowledge him as a fellow human being as I remind myself, there but for the grace of God go I?
One Christmas evening, my husband, his brother and I went to a downtown pub in Houston, Texas to celebrate the season. The pub was packed, the patrons in high spirits, the free holiday buffet, endless. Each time we stepped outside to indulge our nicotine habit, a homeless person approached us.
Charlie from New Orleans was on crutches, hands severely swollen from diabetes; he hadn’t eaten in two days. Thirty-one year old Sonya from Boston was seven months pregnant, had been lured away from home, then abandoned. Leroy from Atlanta was in search of a job. We took the time to listen and did what we could; a plate of food from the pub for Charlie; hugs, prayers and information on local shelters and clinics for Sonya; cigarettes and job seeking advice for Leroy.
No longer strangers, each person walked away smiling, comforted because we took the time to learn their names and stories, offer support, encouragement and a helping hand. But most of all, they felt acknowledged, respected and valued. Just like the rare and unique people they are.
This, I believe…
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.