Posts Tagged ‘Prejudice’

Valary and Me

Valary and Me

I spent a wonderful few hours yesterday with a dear friend from high school, Valary.  Except for a recent class reunion, I don’t recall that we’ve crossed paths geographically since our graduation in 1975.  We’re connected online via Facebook, but with her living in California and me in Kentucky, opportunities to catch up in person just don’t happen.  So when we realized that we would both be visiting our hometown of Winchester, Kentucky at the same time, we carved out time to commandeer a booth at a local Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant.  Over 2.5 hours later, we thrilled the servers by finally leaving.

We talked about all kinds of things in our time of catching up yesterday, interrupted at least once every 10 minutes by the very… um… persistent servers wanting to check on us.  I could write several posts here from the insights shared in our conversation, but one in particular stands out to me.  In a nutshell, it is this:

We don’t know all the struggles and detailed personal history others experience in their lives – factors that are critical in understanding how people arrive at their current place in life – why they think, feel and act as they do.  Consequently, we often make wrong assumptions about others based on very limited information and understanding.  We see gaps in their story and fill in those gaps with our own wild imagination.  We have fill-in-the-blank relationships, and we fill in those blanks incorrectly way too often.

Instead of creating and acting on our wrong assumptions about others, wouldn’t it be better for us to take the time to hear directly from them so that we can better understand their story?  Don’t just make up something to fill in the blanks of other people’s lives.  Then them fill in those gaps of our understanding.

As Valary and I talked, I learned so much about her and others that shows how little I really knew going into yesterday’s conversation.  I can now appreciate her and those others even more than before because she has filled in some glaring blanks in my awareness.

There is too much misunderstanding and conflict around most us every day, both interpersonally and on a larger scale between groups and nations.  It is a shame that much of the conflict may stem not from the facts of a situation, but from wrong assumptions, suppositions and prejudices that negatively impact our response to others before we even know their true, whole story.

After talking for 2.5 hours to Valary at that restaurant booth, it’s safe to say I know her better than ever, and I appreciate her far more than ever, even though she’s been a friend for decades.  That’s what talking one-on-one with someone can do for us.  We need more of that.

Fill-in-the-blank relationships are dangerous.  We need others – especially the people themselves – to help us fill in those gaps in understanding.

Thank you, Valary, for that important reminder.  Godspeed.

Top 10 ListBelow are the most viewed posts on this blog during 2012.  If you missed one of them or have long since forgotten what it was about, check it out.  Most are quick lessons learned of 366 words or less (the exceptions being #2 and #9 – both posts from 2011 that still were among the most viewed in 2012).

1. Be There: Giving full attention to the people you are with and not being distracted by technology or anything else.

2. Trust: The importance of trust between people, and implications if trust is broken, especially in relationships at work.

3. Sometimes All It Takes Is 20 Seconds: Inspired by the movie We Bought a Zoo, thoughts about how 20 seconds of insane courage can change your life.

4. Companies Need Customer Service Like Granny Provides: Based on my regular experiences with a sweet, old lady when I donate blood at the Red Cross, this is what customer service should be like.

5. You Need Someone At Work To Relate To: Being the only person at your business doing your type of work can be very lonely.  Having one other person to relate to can help tremendously.

6. Kisses Are Priceless: From Valentine’s Day, 2012, read about two unexpected kisses, how they made my day and why kisses are priceless.

7. Exhaustion Can Hurt So Good: After an extreme Muddy Fanatic race with good friends, the mind and spirit can be so satisfied even if the body is spent.

8. Don’t Pre-Judge: Whether dealing with people or animals, you can easily make wrong assumptions and treat others differently if you pre-judge them.

9. More Questions Than Answers: Still-unanswered questions from 2011 regarding social learning and the use of social media in learning.

10. Evil Is Real, and So Is the Cure: Reflections following the tragic elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut from my Christian worldview.

Thanks to all the readers who made these the most read.  I look forward to seeing what interests you this year.

Last night I spent some time at my son Brian’s home with his roommates and some of their family.  It was my first time meeting the others except for Brian’s dog Jaina.

His roommates have a white pit bull named Roxy similar to the one shown here.  I’ve never been around pit bulls before.  My only exposure has been from occasional newscasts that tell about maulings and problems with them.  I didn’t know before arriving at the house that they had a pit bull and I’m glad I didn’t.  It might have tainted my initial experience with her.

Roxy is 6.5 years old and among the friendliest dogs I’ve ever met.  My dog, Callie, loves to lick on us more than any dog I’ve ever owned.  She and Roxy must be kindred spirits because Roxy wanted to do the same, getting up on the sofa between Linda and me, going back and forth between us as to who got the kisses and eventually laying down to cuddle up with us.  She really was remarkable.

Not having prior experience with pit bulls, I had to ask what breed she was and was a bit surprised to hear.  She doesn’t fit the mold cast by the occasional news story.

What if I’d known going in that she was a pit bull?  Would I have treated her any different?  Would I have been more standoffish?  Probably, at least until I got to know her.

Isn’t that the way it is with pre-judging others?  Pre-judging is what prejudice is all about and it isn’t always founded on reasonable grounds.  Yes, there are pit bulls trained for fighting and raised to be mean, but that isn’t the full picture of the breed.  Yes, there are other people of different nationalities, race, religion and a host of backgrounds – some of which have done bad things to you or those you care about.  But those instances don’t necessarily describe the majority.  You have to get to know people (and animals) on a personal basis to know the truth about them.  It helps if you don’t make too many assumptions going in.

Leap year lesson #327 is Don’t pre-judge.