We all know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a metaphorical phrase meaning you shouldn’t prejudge someone because your first opinion could be completely different of your opinion after you get to know them.
I’m guilty of judging too quickly sometimes. I wouldn’t believe you if you told me you have never been guilty of this. We’re human, as much as we don’t want to admit it, we make mistakes and we judge.
I sat on the aisle seat because one of my sorority sisters had never flown before and she was sitting on the aisle seat across from me, so I could comfort her if needed. After almost everyone boarded the plane, there was still one seat open and it was the one next to me. At first I thought that no one would sit down next to me and I was perfectly fine with that. I wouldn’t mind having a whole seat to myself and enjoying some peace and quiet. Then all of a sudden there was a Hispanic man that was frantically walking towards the open seat next to me. He stuffed his luggage in the carry-on case above our heads.
The Hispanic man appeared to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s. I got up so he could sit in the window seat next to me. He had light brown skin and dark brown hair. I could tell that he was about 5’7 or so with broad shoulders right before he sat down. He had a little bit of a scruffy beard on his face. He wore a gray button-up shirt with dark blue jeans. That’s when I did it. I judged a book by its cover. I thought he may or may not be able to speak English so I honestly thought we wouldn’t speak much. I thought he didn’t look friendly. I thought he looked dark, secretive and somewhat shady.
If you’ve ever ridden a plane, you know how it goes. It takes about 20 or so minutes to get everyone seated and ready for takeoff. The man didn’t pay much attention to me at this time. He looked at the window, on his phone, and made it clear we wouldn’t be engaging in conversation.
I didn’t think we would have anything in common so I thought, I’ll keep to myself; this airplane ride will be over before I know it. We took off, there was a noise outside of the plane, and my sorority sister and I laughed and made jokes about what it was. The Hispanic man said, “It was just the wheels.” Hmm … he can speak clear as day English, I thought to myself.
Then he looked at me and said, “Are you coming or going?”
“Going,” I said, “To a sorority conference.”
“Ah,” said the Hispanic man, “I thought you all were cheerleaders, at first, you all look so nice and chipper.”
Chipper. No one has ever described me as chipper. I laughed. I liked that description. Before I knew it, this Hispanic man and I were really engaged into a conversation and I loved it. He was so interesting. I’ll have to admit when I first saw him I didn’t think he would be so talkative, so intriguing, so … well, chipper.
He told me all about his life. He was married, he had 5 children and they were all adopted and were of ages ranging from 6-14. His voice was captivating. I felt like I was reading a book I thought I wouldn’t like but as I kept going, I couldn’t put it down.
He told me the process he had to go through to adopt all of his children, how he and his wife used to be foster parents, and how they gave an opportunity to their children to all choose new names if they liked since this was a new life and a new start for them. He showed me pictures of his family, told me about their new names, and what they loved to do.
His children were adorable and they looked identical to the man sitting next to me and his wife. We laughed at this fact because they were adopted. He was Hispanic, his wife Caucasian, and all of his children looked like a mix between the two. This man was a pastor, a missionary and a filmer, who had just left Nashville where he was filming a new series of college students and their walks with Jesus. I told him about the mission trips I had been on and we realized we had a lot in common. We talked about Jesus. I was really not expecting this kind of life story from him at all. I wanted to hear more and more about his life and tell him about mine. I had made a friend, but before I knew it, we had landed. I didn’t really want to get off the plane at this point; I was still captivated by his story.
“What was your name again?” I said to the man before I got up.
When he told me what his name was he smiled.
“Wait, didn’t you tell me that was your son’s name too?” I replied.
“Yes, he picked it,” He said after he chuckled under his breath.
“That’s so sweet,” I replied.
Those were the last words I said to the man. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him how much I enjoyed talking to him, that I hoped he had a safe trip, or why I didn’t even say goodbye to him. I could tell he had such a kind heart and impacted everyone he spoke to. I felt as if we still had so much to talk about. Then I thought back to how I quickly judged him at first and realized I didn’t quite have the encounter with the mysterious passenger that I thought I would. I wish I would’ve told him that he made a small impact on me. Moral of the story: I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge and we probably would’ve had an even longer, more in depth conversation if I hadn’t judged. People can surprise you.