I believe in the old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover.” In my job as a registered nurse I have met and worked with people from all walks of life. I have cared for millionaires and the homeless, highly educated people and those who cannot read, and people from many ethnic backgrounds. The only recurrent theme is that many of these people do not fit the classic stereotype that society would give them. The only way to know this is to take the time to get to know people and reserve judgment until you have more of the whole story.
Here is a case in point. I have worked many years as surgical nurse. In surgery we rarely get to see people at their best and in fact a lot of the time, at their worst. On a particular day there was a gentleman who was admitted for a urology procedure. I will call him Joe. He was in is seventies. He was unshaven, had obviously not showered for many days and his odor was unmistakable. On top of all of that, he was down right mean and rude, at least on the outside. My first instinct was to just do the bare minimum to get the paperwork done so that we could just take him to surgery. Instead I joked with him a little, which didn’t go well. Then I gently confronted his obnoxious behavior. I believe the phrase I used was, “Who peed in your Cheerios this morning?” He seemed to become very disarmed at someone talking back to him. He sheepishly apologized for his behavior. Joe and I then spent the next hour chatting and getting to know each other. Here is what I found out about Joe.
Joe flew P-51 Mustangs in World War II! He had story after story of dogfights, getting shot down, being rescued, and doing it all over again. He was nearly captured by the Germans. He was awarded many different medals, more than I can remember. He was so proud of what he was able to do to serve his country. He is the epitome of a war hero. He was constantly giving out little tidbits of advice.
In the end I discovered why he was so grumpy to people. His wife and sons had been killed in a car accident in the late sixties. Ever since that time, Joe said he had a difficult time letting people get to know him. The liquor bottle had become his best friend. It had been that way for many years. He thanked me for taking the time to be nice to an “Old jackass like me.”
So, again I say1, never judge a book, or anything else, by its cover. Take a few minutes to open the book and see what’s inside. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
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