Do you remember how our parents often tell us that age old adage of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” ? Have you ever noticed how, although we know that we are not supposed to do that, we still do it anyway? I have the guts to admit that I am guilty of judging my fellowman at least once. In fact, when I was in grade school, I had misjudged one of my classmates simply because of the way she looked and her station in life because I listened to and believed in the rumors that our classmates had spread about her.
This girl was known to have been raised by two spinster aunts since her birth so her ways and mannerisms in public was not that of people her age. In fact, if we did not have her for a classmate, we could have sworn that she was home schooled. She possessed an aloof attitude, sometimes seemingly eccentric and weird in her ways as well. She never hung around after classes and always seemed in a hurry to go home. She simply had no time to socialize and was irritated when forced to stay late at school.
So we all determined that she was either abnormal or just plain weird. She was a quiet person who usually kept to herself and could often be found in the library reading up on the days lessons or just reading the available newspapers and magazines. We laughed at her often because even though she was a voracious reader, she was terrible in the Math and Science area of lessons. We had known her since pre-school and knew that she had started failing those subjects when we were in grade 3.
She was the butt of all the in-jokes and we gave her no respect at all when we spoke to her. We considered her the class clown and mascot because no matter what we seemed to do to her, she could simply ignore. We considered her a challenge whom we had to break down and make cry. Then one day in English class, we were assigned to pair up and do some role playing activity. A unanimous groan went through the classroom when the girls name was announced. All of us were dreading the possibility of being stuck with her for a partner.
We were convinced that it would only mean a disaster for whoever was paired with her. We had 2 weeks to work together and come up with a properly enacted and costumed scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays. I dreaded having to work with her because the class made such a big deal out it by ribbing me in public about how I did not have a prayer of getting a passing grade in the project because of my partner. She made one request of me during our partner meeting in class.
Could we do the rehearsals at her house instead? She had to stay home whenever possible she explained, because her elderly aunts needed help around the house and she was worried that something might happen if she left them alone. I found this of interest, an open invitation to come over to her house and see where she lived and how she lived would be my chance to understand what made her the way she was and also confirm or deny any of the rumors floating about in school regarding her and her home life.
On my first day of practice with her, I met her very accommodating aunts who thought of me as their nieces friend from school. They were glad that she finally brought a friend over to the house because she was a lonely young woman who just spent her days reading and fussing over them. I did not have the heart to tell them I was no friend of hers. But as the days of our rehearsals progressed, I got to know her and her family better and I realized how wrong we were to have judged her just because we did not understand why she was different.
If only we took the time to actually talk to her instead of tease her, we would have understood that she was really a very caring and loving person who recognized her responsibilities in life and made extra efforts to insure that she could do what was expected of her properly. Due the school activity, I came to realize that she was a special girl. She was the kind of person whom one took the time to get to know and nurture as a friend. I decided that I would continue to befriend her regardless of what the rest of the school thought of her.
Guess what, now that I am in high school, most of my grade school friends have disappeared. But this girl has remained a true and steadfast friend to me all this time. And I have helped her come out of her shell and become more sociable. True, the bad rep that was spread about her is still mentioned from time to time. But at least, I helped her get to know some other people who could really be a true friend to her. Just like I am. Truly, “one cannot judge a book by its cover” and first impressions could be wrong. Just look at how wrong I was in this situation.