Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First Impressions

Do You Judge By First Impressions?
Does the cover of a book draw you in?   Or turn you away? 

What about people?  Do the way they look make you want to smile at them?  Or turn away? 

I saw someone on the street today that brought back a memory and I wanted to share it. 

For those of you who've been following my blog, you know I was a foster parent for 13 years...69 kids.  And we had 69 first impressions. 

A 16 yr. old with his face covered in bruises.  Another 16 yr. old in a 10:00 at night.  A 6 yr. old playing with baby toys.  The arrogant, swaggering, 17 yr. old street kid. 

You get the picture?  First impressions.  We tend to judge a person just like we do a book.  By what we see in that first moment.  Is it right?  No, but it's what most of us do.  I've learned though, that by doing so could possibly make you miss a really good person.  Like a really good book that was passed over because you didn't like the cover.

One day I was asked to pick up a young man, 17, at the police department.  When I first saw him, my eyes saw a tall, young man in blue jeans that had been sliced from thigh to ankle with a razor blade.  He had a mohawk that was hanging way over the side of his shaved head and the odor that emanated from him was horrendous.   We smiled at each other, I introduced myself, asked if he was okay leaving with me, and we were on our way.  I didn't judge by my first impression.  I was too seasoned by this time.  As he swung his duffel bag over his shoulder, all I saw was a boy in need.

Yes, he looked bad.  Yes, he smelled bad.  But when he began to talk, what I saw was a bright and friendly young person who'd had some really bad luck. 

His mother had locked him out of his house and refused to let him back in. He hitched a ride on the interstate and was dropped off 3 hours later in my small town. For one week he lived in the cemetery. By day he roamed the streets, occasionally eating snacks that he bought with what little change he had. At night, he spread a tarp over some bushes and slept with the dead.

But that was a rainy week. And a chilly week. He was cold, wet, hungry and lonely. So he went to the police station and asked for help.

I could have said no.  I could have looked at and smelled this boy, turned my nose up and said they'd have to find another home.  I could have "judged the book by the cover."  But then I would have missed getting to know this remarkable young man.  It's been over 20 years and I still remember everything about this boy.  He left a life-long impression on me. 

Have you pulled your child away from the scruffy, dirty kid on the playground?  Have you given a wide berth to the homeless man on the street?  Do you snicker at the old woman talking to herself in the grocery store?  Maybe, just maybe, if more of us took the time to talk to any of these people, we might find a remarkable person that just needs a friend, a little help, a kind word or even just a smile. 

Sometimes your smile or jester of kindness isn't wanted or appreciated.  But sometimes it is.

The King of Lies by John Hart
Another awesome book by this author. If fact, this was his first novel. I'd already read the 3 he's written since this and was so enthralled with them I had to go back to the beginning and read this one.  And he didn't let me down.  What an amazing writer!  Here's the story:

Jackson Workman Pickens --- known to most as Work --- mindlessly holds together his life: a failing law practice left to him when his father, Ezra, mysteriously disappeared, a distant wife, and a fragile sister, Jean, damaged by the shared past they’ve endured.

And then Ezra’s body is discovered.

Set to inherit his father’s fortune, Work becomes a prime suspect. But so does Jean. Fearing the worst, Work launches his own investigation, crossing paths with a power-hungry detective, a string of damning evidence, and the ugly rumors that swirl within his small, moneyed Southern town. Desperate for the redemption that has eluded him for so many years and stripped of everything he once valued, Work fights to save his sister, clear his name, and regain the love of the woman to whom he gave his heart so many years before.

I, once again, highly recommend this.

Quotes of the Day:
It's pretty simple, pretty obvious: that people's first impressions of people are really a big mistake. ~ Vincent D'Onofrio

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~ Thomas Helm


Tari said...

Thank you for writing this. I have watched my kids get judged by people over and over and over again. Then once they get to know them the perception is a complete 360. I am complimented on how smart they are, how nice they are, what hard workers they are. Everything that the 1st impression was NOT. I, like you, do not judge, because we never know what that person's story or situation may be. And that one kind word or smile or minute thing that may seem like nothing to you and I, may mean one giant ray of hope to someone else.

Karen said...

You're more than welcome. Everyone gets so caught up in that "1st impression" that they fail to see the whole picture. I love your kids and agree that they are wonderful, smart, funny and a joy to be around. I'm proud to be their aunt.