This I Believe

Brittney - Westminster, Maryland
Entered on April 14, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: prejudice
  • Life Lessons Learned from Strangers

    width=As children, we’re taught to be wary of strangers. But random encounters with people we don’t know can lead to surprising insights about others and opportunities to learn more about ourselves. Click here to read this selection of essays about life lessons learned from strangers.

As a child just having moved to Westminster and starting first grade in a new school, I found it easy to attach myself to one person; a best friend. As I have gotten older, this best friend has changed multiple times, and I have found that, in some ways, it is better to have many good friends rather than one best friend. But overall, I think it’s obvious that I have stayed within a comfort zone of people; people of my age with the same interests…until recently.

Having stayed in this comfort zone for so long, it became easy to judge people upon first glance, or by the word of another. “He’s Goth” or “What a snob. You don’t want to work with her.” I’d like to think I wasn’t stuck in this rut, passing judgment based on artificial stereotypes. But I believe most everyone does this at some point in their lives, even I.

Last November, I decided to get a job at Panera Bread. It was a little nerve-wracking not knowing many of the people I was working with, but week by week we all got to know each other and learned to work as an efficient team. One girl describes herself as having a hippie spirit, another is a little bit punk, and many like to party hard and have fun. I work with mothers and fathers and people from my school whom I’d never met before. I even have class with one guy whom I’d never talked to until he started working at Panera about a month ago. We’re now good friends and he gives me the best neck massages. In school, we’re part of completely different groups, but we’re still friends because we met outside of the judgmental atmosphere presented in high school.

I’ve also become close with some people a few years older than I. Unlike my parents who see these people as potential threats, people who could expose me to the wrong types of habits, I see them only as who they are: sweet, caring friends with problems and habits of their own, just like me. Their age and what they do doesn’t bother me, because I’ve learned that they won’t force anything on me. Therefore, I don’t judge them; I don’t make assumptions or judgments until I know a person completely.

With this mindset, I believe a fulfilling life is possible. Making judgments only narrows the possibilities presented in one’s lifetime. Therefore, one must meet and associate with as many people as possible. To know others is to know yourself. I myself feel so much freer knowing that I’m no longer stuck in the same group; I can not be classified because I am friends with people from all different walks of life. I can relate to them all in different, personal ways, and I know they can relate to me as well.