As soon as I saw her, I thought I had her figured out: a beauty queen, hair perfectly coiffed, make-up, clothes and size all perfect, life of pampering, confident and ambitious.
But then she started to talk and I learned she’d been abused as a child and was working to help other children of abuse. Her knowledge of the facts and figures related to the problem and her desire to make things better was impressive.
When I first saw him, he fit perfectly in a pigeonhole I made for him right then and there: gruff, opinionated, shady past, difficult present.
But then we struck up a conversation and he gave me his opinions on raising children and the future of the world and he quoted scripture and shared profound experiences and I hung on every word.
At first I saw the young woman’s handicap and figured there were limitations to what she could accomplish.
But then I realized the upbeat, inspiring art I had been admiring was her creation and that with it, she lifted and inspired others of us who have our own kinds of limitations.
There are few things more fascinating than finding what’s inside someone’s head.
It’s traveling to a new country, reading a different book.
It can happen every day if you’re open to it.
My family still rolls their eyes at the flight-long conversation I shared with a man sitting next to me on a return trip from Portland (an hour and a half) (and I promise, it was just that once, I’m usually quiet as a mouse on flights) (he had lots of questions).
I’d judged him to be a college student, maybe studying something outdoorsy, maybe a skier. Turned out he had three children, was a veterinarian, his wife was a schoolteacher and they volunteered for a refugee organization.
We had so much to talk about.
I’m quite sure I get pigeonholed from the get-go as being kind of old, kind of frumpy, kind of reserved, probably somebody’s grandmother.
But I’m not reserved.
And I like nothing better than meeting someone who proves different from what they appear at first sight.
I thought I knew a bit about teenage girls. After all I’d been one, I’d raised others, and I’d been around tons more.
I thought I knew what to expect at the girls’ camp I attended with them last year. But conditions were worse than expected.
The temperature was 102 degrees and the winds were strong. Our Arches campground was in some sort of wind tunnel, making it hard to set up tents, hard to keep them up, hard to eat dinner without eating sand, and hard to sleep.
Tent windows had to be left open to avoid suffocating in the heat, meaning blowing sand pelted your face and stuck to your skin all night.
But not only did those girls not ask to go home, by the end of the week they had found profound lessons in that experience and other experiences equally challenging through the week.
It was not what I expected. It was much better.
People, just ordinary, every day people, sitting next to us, working beside us, make the best kind of surprises. You just have to open your mind and listen.