My first impressions of people are not worth much. I try to take in a person’s full measure with a few pieces of information. I fail miserably.
There is a manager who works in a nearby grocery store. He looks surly. He has a demeanor of cranky boss-man. A scowl appears to have a long-term lease on his face. This is not a man I would look to for mirth and delight.
Then he rang up my groceries one day. He smiled, was quick to laugh, and could not have been nicer. That was the reality of him, which was much greater what I had assumed.
Due to my lack of skill, I have developed three responses to the, “What do ya think?” question.
“They seem cute.”
“They seem nice.”
“They seem competent.”
Those responses cover all my bases. Babies, coworkers, bosses; I rattle off three words and go about my day. I know it takes me at least six months to get an inkling of a person’s measure. I do not see all sides without more information.
My parking spot at the complex where I live is a tight one. I am surrounded on two sides by concrete walls. I used to be able to make a left turn, adjust the positioning, and park with relative ease.
Then the Lexus showed up. This Lexus, this SUV, this gold-tinged behemoth, was a cause of some frustration. It parked in the spot behind mine. It was a large car. The vehicle jutted out more than a foot from its spot. There was this vast empty space, a parcel of prime real estate that was not utilized. It frustrated me enough to ask my landlord to get them to scoot their car-butt back into their space.
The landlord was happy to help. The neighbor was not. The car still juts out, taking up more room that I feel it should.
I have learned that you cannot change another person. You can only change how you respond to them. I started looking for options. Once I tried, I soon found an alternative. If I backed my car into the garage, drove past the Lexus, and maneuvered my car differently, the problem was solved. All I needed to do was approach matters from a different angle.
My twenty-third great-grandfather was King John I. I am related to one of the worst kings in history. Yay? (At least my presidential pedigree remains.) He was forced by twenty-five barons to sign the Magna Carta. One of those barons was my twenty-third great-grandfather, William Malet. For one side of my family, it was a victory. For another side, it was a loss.
The theme carries to the Civil War. Brothers fought brothers. Fathers fought sons. Part of a family could win at the same time that part of a family lost.
Black Panther was right. We are all members of the same tribe. If we go back far enough, we are all related. We might as well be nice to our brothers and sisters. If we look to the future, we will find ourselves meeting up again. We might as well be nice to our children.
I cannot remember a time when I did not read The Bible. It has always been on a shelf somewhere. This is a book that demands to be visited a second time. And a third. And a twelfth. And so on.
I struggle to find new infromation in it. I have read different translations. I have plowed through from Genesis to Revelations. I get bored. Sometimes I use a comic book version to change it up.
Currently, I am trying to imagine different perspectives of the characters. Paul is often portrayed as this great man who was persecuted and jailed for his efforts. The last time I came across his writings, I was struck by his past. Every time he talked to his Christian family, he had to face the fact that he murdered many of them. Whether we like it or not, we all have a past that we are trying to get over. That part of Paul, the part that wishes we could have a do-over; that is a new side I am learning from.
Then there is Lot. When he was fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah, he was told not to look back. I had always interpreted that as not clinging to the past. Looking back was pining for the life that was being left behind. (See also: Israelites fleeing Egypt and finding out there was not as much food as they had hoped.)
This time, I took in the story as, “Hey, there is a massive disaster happening uncomfortably close to our backsides. Perhaps we should make sure that we are far enough away? I don’t want to alarm anybody, but there is a lot of noise going on back there. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to check our starting point, right? Ensure that we’re running away fast enough?”
If I approach it from that angle, it becomes a story of trust. Lot and his family could have faith in God to rescue them. Or they could let their fear and worries take over. Anyone can say that God protects us. Yet how often do we look over our shoulders to be double-check?
Last week there was a character on the bus. I had my opinions. Her skin was leathery. She had a worn appearance about her. She was smoking. I know that God loves everyone, but I was quite content to have her sit in another section.
She did not cause any trouble. She did not get off in the lower-income part of town that I had assumed she would. She made some phone calls to her boyfriend with colorful language. Well, ex-boyfriend. Apparently he was kicking her out of his place. There was much discussion as to whether or not he was going to let her in to collect her things. He had a friend over. He did not want her around. She wanted her things.
The first impression I had had of her was not going to help anyone. When I finally put myself in her shoes, I felt compassion for her. We all need a place to hang our hat. We want to have people that love us. To lose both of those essential things in one day is devastating. She did not need me judging her. She needed compassion.
I am still learning from those that came before me. I try to take in events around me with an open mind. As politics become more heated, I reject the idea that we are out to defeat this side or that group. I am not out to beat my opponent or prove my side is infinitely wiser. I try to understand those that are different from me. There is no reason why the first impressions I have of a person or issue have to be my last impressions.