I believe in not making snap judgments. I believe in not making up my mind about someone the second I meet them. I believe that too often, opportunities for understanding, and even friendship are squandered because we are blinded by our own selfish desires, agendas, and prejudices. It took meeting a French exchange student named Agnes to conceive this belief.
As the only foreign student in my class in Dresden, Germany, I had a hard time in the beginning. Having to forge my way alone in making friends and feeling comfortable in school had taken the better part of the last six months. The last thing I wanted was some other exchange student taking my spotlight and my time; interrupting my experience as I tried to have a great end to my year in Germany. Although hypocritical of me – for I had needed as much help as I could get when I had first started out – I harbored a secret aversion for her in my heart until the day she showed me how ignorant I had been.
When I first met her, I was friendly, but bound and determined to avoid her and the irritation she was sure to incur. I ended up however, being the one to assist her in any way she needed. After about three weeks of being her “helper”, our friendship, if you could even call it that, consisted really only of me correcting her constantly or assisting her with homework. One day I remember a hug she gave me at the end of class, and a little note. At that point in our relationship I can say she had begun to grow on me a little, but I had no serious intentions of becoming best pals. The note read, “Dear Kaley, I am such a happy girl to be friends, you are so nice helping me with the schoolwork and talking to me. I see you tomorrow! Love, Agnes.” She gave me not only a note on that day, but also the idea that by allowing my preconceptions to get in the way of letting her become my friend, I had been a hypocrite.
Situations like these present themselves to us every day. That loud obnoxious person in class whom you despise for their outspokenness may just be insecure, and covers it up by acting out. Panhandlers who come up to you on the street may not be there by choice or laziness, but maybe because of a real problem or need. The quiet person who sits in the corner may be too shy to talk to anyone else, not anti-social or a hater. And contrary to many’s dogged belief, political parties do not determine a person’s personality or their integrity. But none of us would know this without having first met and talked to these people. The moment we see someone our instinctive reaction is to decide what they are like and why without ever having spoken with them in our life. It is easier to write someone off as crazy or stupid or annoying than to actually consider what they have said or why they are so truly, “crazy”, “stupid”, or “annoying.” It took something as simple as a scrap of paper with a thoughtful message to show me that what we initially want to believe, is not always true.
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