HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

August 13, 2007

People wear different hats in different situations

I have a really great friend who is unique in every way.

He is a very talented human being – the type of person who looks at an ordinary item and can find something intriguing or artistic about it.

Painting is as natural to him as speaking, and the same goes for music.

His eccentric nature would often pawn him off with a careless crowd. At first glance, he may be put into a stereotypical group – only involved in social settings, not truly caring about anything more than having a good time, right?

On the contrary.

I traveled northbound with him just to get out of town – a change of pace. I expected he would want to do the same. I knew he had family up in Duluth, so that’s where we headed.

I thought him having family up there was just background information, a place to crash out after our daily adventures, but as it turned out, that’s all he wanted to do, spend quality time with his family.

It was such a pleasant trip, in such an unexpected way.

I think you can learn a lot about a person when you are around their family.

It’s incredible to find the connections – the roots that were influential in making a person who they are.

There are so many people who mentor our lives, in what seems to be subtle ways, but in actuality, they are forming the way we look, do, or understand something to be.

I learned a lot of the reasons why my friend is interested in the music, the artists, and the styles that he is, just from listening to family anecdotes about their very admirable grandfather, which in turn made me look at my friend in a fresh way.

Think about the people you know in your life, and the context in which you know them.

I think it’s really easy to assume things about people through our personal experiences, but it’s very hard to know everything they have gone through in their lives to cause them to be the way they are. I think it is easy to form judgments of people because of this. It’s a common human trait; it’s what we do.

We are curious and we make assumptions to combat that unknown feeling.

But, if we started to look at people as humans, and give each person the recognition that we’re all doing the same thing here: living, our judgments could dissolve.

This adopted mentality might take away prejudices or stereotypes that we create through assumptions, because when we assume, we create a false reality.

I just thought it was a beautiful thing to see someone I know very well on a social level, in a completely different setting, an intimate time with his family – a humbling process to witness and experience.

People have many hats for each situation in their lives. Sometimes those hats of the past have made a permanent impression on their futures, both positive and negative.

Knowing this may make me give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know each experience that has formed them into the person they are, but this mentality at least breeds compassion.

You’re not going to like everyone, but you certainly can give them the respect of an open mind and the hope that they will do the same for you.

So look around and soak in the beautiful complexity of the familiar people you interact with daily. Who knows, maybe you’ll see them differently.