Don’t Judge a book by its cover. Yes, it’s something we’ve all heard before, and yes, it is cliché. However, I think the concept of not judging people based on first impressions holds a lot of worth. It is something, that through many experiences, particularly ones I’ve had involving individuals with varying disabilities, but also through more common ones as well, I have grown to believe deeply in.
One particularly dramatic example from a school for children with multiple disabilities that I worked at is of one student, Janie. Janie had grown up as a regular kid, but in her mid teens had an aneurism that caused serious brain damage. The doctors said she would never speak, walk or eat without a feeding tube again. Most people at the school thought that little was going on inside her head and that she wasn’t even able to understand what people were saying to her. However, as of last December, she was eating normal foods, walking with the assistance of a gait trainer, and on Christmas morning, when her brother was annoying her, she spoke her first words in over a year and a half-“Leave me alone!” When she returned to school after winter break, we had a new student who had been the same rehab facility as Janie for a while, and when she entered Janie’s class, Janie greeted her with a “Hi Florangel!”, showing that she had be coherent for a very long time. This is someone that people assumed had little to nothing going on in her mind, who proved them all wrong and showed that she had cognitively been there throughout her ordeal.
Along these same lines, I saw a documentary about a man with autism-full blown, barely able to speak, autism. If you were to pass him on the streets most people would just pass him off as stupid, retarded, and maybe even be a little afraid and unsure of him. However, this man wrote this entire documentary. While his sentence structure wasn’t perfect all the time, and he sometimes had roundabout ways of describing things, often times using almost overly vivid figurative language, it was mind blowing. His vocabulary was outstanding. There were times I almost felt as if I needed to break out a dictionary. Yet, if most people had just seen him on the street they would have completely passed him by.
While these are some rather impressive examples, this belief, that people should not be judged based on first impressions can be seen everywhere. I befriended a girl who had just moved to my town my sophomore year of high school, and started coming to meeting of one of the groups I belonged too. Many of the other girls would bad mouth her behind her back, without even having spoken to her once. She’s a person who can come off as very ditsy and oblivious, and that was what they were judging her on. I was able to convince a few of them to give her a chance, and sure enough by the end of the three of them were practically inseparable. All it took was sitting down and getting to know her for them to realize that there were some “smarts” and a good person behind the seemingly ditsy one.
In my mind, it is impossible to actually tell what someone is like from just seeing them, or interacting with them briefly. These are just three, of many examples that I could have listed from my life time, and I’m sure everyone has examples of their own. Allowing people to show who they actually are and not judging them based on your first impressions of them is something that I think is key to being able to get the most out of life and relationships as you can. This is what I believe.
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