Don’t EVER judge a book by its cover: You might get burned!

“Why do you have that look of disdain on your face?” I asked Marilyn*. We had been volunteering at the same organization that catered to the wellbeing of some needy people in our community. And suddenly, there arrived a woman who appeared obviously unkempt, smelly and looked like she had not had a bath for days or even weeks. Even after we had given her what we would generally give to anyone who showed up at the warehouse, she kept coming back for more supplies.

And my friend could not but hide her contempt for this lady, and rambled on and on about how greedy the woman was. She even went ahead and sort of gave her, a ‘not too pleasant’ lecture about becoming financially independent in a demeaning manner. I wasn’t surprised at her attitude, because she occasionally did it some of the people we served. But I found it hard to figure out how she chose whom to let out her venom on, and my constant appeals to her to quit doing it always fell on deaf ears.

Later on before we wrapped up distributing for the day, my friend Marilyn learned the hardest lesson of her life; because it turned out that the so-called ‘unkempt woman’ was actually the wife of a very top government official in our community. She had disguised and taken it upon herself to go about evaluating the activities of community organizations, which claimed to be helping the ‘not-too-privileged’ members of the society.

She told Marilyn that she had no business volunteering at the organization, if she could not be courteous and respectful of the people, she claimed to serve. Marilyn had misdiagnosed the lady because of her outward appearance, using the ‘spot diagnosis’ technique; and she never showed up to volunteer at the warehouse, ever again.spot diagnosis picture_pexels-photo.jpgI remember in Medical School, how we were often taught to make spot diagnoses of the clinical cases we encountered. We usually had to apply our clinical knowledge to easily diagnose symptoms and signs which patients presented with, just by looking at them. In doing this, sometimes we made the right diagnosis, but at other times, we were completely wrong; so wrong that our original diagnosis may have had no bearing to what the patient had.

Unsurprisingly, so many people still apply the spot diagnosis technique to everyday relationships, interactions and encounters. We are quick to judge people by the way they look, sound, tribe, zip codes, educational or social statuses, or their overall way of life, without taking the time to know more about them. Don’t be like Marilyn my friend, because you may never know what the true identity of the other person is. Don’t judge a book by its cover, if you do not have the patience to read through it. If you really profess to care about the wellbeing of others, then you should be willing to accept them for who they are, regardless of where they come from or where they are going to. Instead of the disdainful look, have a warm and welcoming smile, to reassure the other person that you are truly interested in their welfare. It is the right thing to do. It is the more humane thing to do.

Are you committed to spreading warmth and good will? Don’t spot diagnose people, because even if you do not get burned in the process, it is the more honorable thing to do. Be positive; be welcoming; be approachable. Be the game changer and let’s join hands together to empower communities to truly become effective hubs for healthy living!

To your continued success. Cheers!!!

Evi Abada

* Name changed to protect identity

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