Get Past the Cover & Read the Book

I was talking with a woman the other day who in her late 60’s has to work because her social security check just doesn’t pay her bills. She is blind in one eye and has cataract in her other. Last fall she slipped on some water at the department store where she works and broke her ankle. The department store made her come back to work two days later. She says management has been very unforgiving, once making her walk (with crutches) in the rain to her car, and though she is still limping and in pain, they make her park at the back of the parking lot because “that is where the employees park”. They have been unreasonably rude to her in what seems an obvious attempt to make her quit. But she can’t. She just has to tolerate the mean-spirited remarks about her disabilities and the lack of empathy regarding what she has just gone through.

 I met this woman a few weeks ago as she desperately needed a ride to Dallas to attend the memorial of a long-time friend who died recently. I was driving up there for the same memorial so I asked her to come with me. Meeting someone for the first time in anticipation of spending hours and hours on the road with them can be an interesting prospect. We both laughed, sharing our “concerns” about the other which were completely negated when we got to know each other. She is beautiful, intelligent, witty, and sharp as a metal burr.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together in the car and when we got back vowed to stay friends.

 So, why am I telling you this story? I am appalled at how this woman was and still is being treated by this department store (I would tell you what store it is but I don’t want to get her in trouble). Management, apparently all the way up, is simply being mean spirited.

 Rudeness it seems, is much more prevalent in recent decades. People have forgotten how to feel a basic respect for each other much less even pretend they feel that way.

 Is life so bad? Have we become so spoiled and apathetic that there is no room in our universes for anyone besides the ones we have to care for? Are we so cocooned in our own misery that we can’t see (and understand) that the people around us are going through their own stuff? Most people I talk to these days think everyone on the road around them are idiots. Really? And what do you suppose they think about you? Or do you even care?

 Whatever happened to ‘treat others as you would have them treat you’? It seems many are slowly devolving into egocentric, nuclear, single-minded, mean-spirited humans and have forgotten that we sow what we reap. I am not talking about karma, though I do believe that the meanest of the mean will get their come-uppance. I am simply referring to the fact that if your attitude is that everyone is an idiot and not worthy of your energy, attention, time, or respect then that is likely how people will treat you.

 No one wants to be disrespected. Even the kids with tattoos and nose rings and spiked hair. Most of us simply want to be accepted for (or despite) our choices whether it is religious preference, color of our hair, or lifestyle preference. In the big picture, it is a test of a sort. Behind the overt display of what might be considered rebellious appearance, unfamiliar spiritual ideas, or choices in the gender of our mate, they are simply people with personalities, wants, needs, …and value.

 We have become a society of snap judgments. And worse, we seem to not even want to know what travails someone else is going through. It means that you would have to act like you care. If you avoid the knowing, then you have no responsibility to help the person in need, or acknowledge that they have struggles of their own.

 Whether you concede it or not, the vast majority of us have value. And if we ignore the superficial differences between us, it gives us room to explore the unique qualities that have worth to us as individuals or as a society. The young woman with blue hair could be a brilliant painter, the Muslim man in Pennsylvania might have a talent for healing lost souls, and the aging woman, despite her disabilities, and with her many years of experience, may have incredible insight into how the store where she works might improve sales. If we harbor a collection of judgments, biases, and prejudices then we rob ourselves of the chance to see the value of a person behind their book cover. And, by that will never grow in their light.

 Let’s read each other’s books. I promise we will all find an interesting story in the binding of each life.

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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