Thursday, April 23, 2009

Judge Not

Sometimes a first impression is also the last. There is rarely a second date if the first one tanks. Advertisers, especially those who concentrate on TV and radio understand this, which is why they spend gazillions of dollars for a fleeting opportunity to pull you in and push you one way or another. Because if you don’t like what you see or hear, you touch the dial to change the station, or perhaps you flip the page – or maybe you just tune out. Many a job interview is considered spoiled if a “good first impression” is not given. But the first impression, however crucial, is often incomplete, if not altogether inaccurate. Newspaper headlines work the same way. The first line in any story is supposed to grab and hold your attention. But to get the complete picture you must read the whole article.

To stay current I read the papers. I read to be informed, enlightened and entertained. In addition to newspapers I like to read magazines. I subscribe to a few, and I will buy others at a newsstand or bookstore. I usually carry some reading material around with me in my briefcase (some have cruelly called it a man-purse). These are periodicals you could comfortably share with your favorite aunt (who just happens to be a nun). Sometimes it is the cover that snares my attention. If I am unfamiliar with the reputation of the publication I have to make a decision; a quick judge of its content and character based solely on its appearance.

Yeah I’ve done that with people too, but hey – I’m working on it. It’s not a personality property I am proud of because it so often fails me. I got another one of those reminders the other day when I watched a video clip of Susan Boyle. About a week ago she appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent”- their version of “American Idol.” I had heard about this and when my friend sent me a Youtube link I checked it out myself.

Here was this woman better suited for third prize at the Salzburg Folk Festival. She was neither polished nor professional. Her physical appearance: the dated dress, hairstyle and eyebrows hinted that a quick exit assisted by a stagehand with a long cane would be forthcoming. She came to the show from a small village in Scotland with her dream and her voice. For the purpose of this essay I am going to ignore the cynical view that this was contrived by Simon Cowell.

Simon, the other two judges and the entire studio audience had already made up their minds. Susan did not belong there, maybe for comedic effect, but that was all. How quickly everything changed when she began to sing. Those in attendance were awe-struck by her voice. Her disheveled exterior no longer mattered. They, who had judged her so quickly and were ready to cast her aside, would have missed out on a very nice lady with a wonderful voice. Susan has changed the perspective of millions. Because they listened and gave her a chance they are now drawn to her story.

Who else do we regularly dismiss? The old man who makes you crazy for driving too slow was risking his life some fifty years ago in Europe operating a tank. Give him some room and respect. How about the leather outfitted biker-guy? He may be a loving father who would give you the shirt off his back. Pick the costume and character that most often trips you up and give that person a chance – you might be impressed.

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