This I Believe

Colin - Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Entered on March 27, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: prejudice
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I believe that it is important not to judge others. Perhaps the world would be a better place if many of us instead of judging and pointing out what we see as disdainful or wrong with others, we sought to help or understand others. It is easier to sit in judgment on someone than to approach them and work things out. I know how easy it is to judge others and of this, I am definitely guilty.

Recently I attended a culinary class that was about twenty students in size. Unfortunately, one of these students never seemed to fit in. I sat next to him in the front row of the classroom.

On my first day eager to learn, with uniform starched and pressed, and ready to make a good impression I made sure to sit front and center. I was at an institution of high regard and reputation and I wanted to live up to this high standard. After neatly putting everything in place, I looked to my right and to my surprise saw a classmate in a wrinkled uniform, with stringy hair that stuck haphazardly out from under a frumpy looking hat. I smiled politely, but simultaneously wondered, “What are you doing here?” I immediately felt ashamed of my judgmental thought, and decided that I would give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was having a rough first day. I know I had, had a tough enough time getting up so early in the morning. Maybe he just did not have enough time to get ready. The next day however there he was looking the same, and I had noticed now too that whenever he exhaled or spoke a wave of noxious halitosis came wafting my way. Not to mention that when he stirred in his seat the air filled with a pungent body odor. I could have leaned over and quietly and said, “Hey, you might want to do something about your breath,” and gave him a mint, or extolled the virtues of good personal hygiene, but I kept silent. After a long day at school, I came home to my wife and proceeded to complain about my odiferous classmate. She looked at me surprised and said, “I have never heard you judge someone so harshly before.” I felt bad that I had again given in to my darker side. He had probably come from a bit of a difficult background, and never quite fit in. Maybe he just needed some help. I decided that would try get over my classmate’s poor habits and maybe be a friend to him. But that thought stayed only a good intention as he always seemed to do something that would annoy me all over again. Other classmates seemed to disapprove of him as well, and in the end, he decided to leave the school. Although no one really grew to like this classmate, most felt sad that he had come to this decision.

If I would have instead of judging and condemning my classmate, politely told him that he should maybe take a little more care with his personal hygiene things could have been different. Rather than quietly turning up my nose at him, I could have come along side him and offered to help. Maybe he would have finished school and gone to be a successful chef or caterer, but sadly, I did nothing for him.