First Impressions

I gave a speech a week ago. I was prepared for it too. I said it a dozen times in front of my mirror, and two dozen while I was making rice pudding. It wasn’t a long speech. I was supposed to give it at a civic club, which I assumed was sort of like a town hall meeting in the south. I felt its purpose was to inspire half a dozen wealthy retirees to contribute to the scholarship that’s helping keep me afloat and my parents out of debt.

I should have realized that things were going to be different when my ride pulled to a stop in front of a massive country club. Ok, I can do this. Wow, I didn’t realize people had cloakrooms anymore, and this veranda looks like it’s something out of Blandings castle. Suffice it to say, that when the guests showed up, and I was introduced as “our speaker,” I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into. They spoke with accents, they were all dressed up, and one guy there looked a bit like Tuppy Glossop. I mean, I wasn’t ready to give a speech to a bunch of highbrows. Perhaps if I had reflected a bit more, I would have realized that Blandings isn’t highbrow.

Well, the moment came, and I stood up somewhat awkwardly, put my back to one of the railings, and let loose what little I had to say. And they told me I had given a good speech. My first reaction is that I’m an open book, and any feelings of nervousness were probably pretty obvious to all concerned. My second reaction was, you know, these are normal people. I proceeded to sit in on an hour of fundraising negotiations that closely resembled one of my venturing crew meetings. Then they took a picture of their guest speaker of the evening to put in their newsletter as proof that they’d done things that night. I came home, but I still felt a bit odd about the whole affair.

Well, who did I expect them to be? A dissertation committee? You have to start somewhere. Finally, I realized what was bothering me. As much as I expected them to be a highbrow, judging sort of people who would see me as a philistine, I had been judging them, which had colored my actions toward them. I hate being judged, but that had been what I was doing, and the realization hurt. But I realize this affects my actions toward more than just these people, and my ability to be friends with them. Ironic, isn’t it? In attempting to be good enough to escape the censure of this whole academic culture of pride, and exclusivity, I’ve become part of it.

It becomes ever harder to judge people once you’ve become friends with them. My flatmate is Muslim, and I find myself thinking about Muslims differently because of her. I don’t agree with some things she says, and I certainly don’t condone jihad, but I do find myself re-examining whether I’m seeing a people group the way God sees them or as a stereotype of what I think they’re really like.

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