Small-minded people

The memory is clear as day. It’s been more than thirty years ago, but I still remember how I came back from class to find that someone had ripped in half a poster and doodled on another that I had hung on the wall of my college dorm room. My roommate and I weren’t the best of friends. He would soon flunk out and we would go our separate ways, but he claimed to have forgotten to lock the door and came back to the mess. (I couldn’t get over though how none of his things were touched.)

I had gotten both posters as freebees—the athletic department had given them out to promote the men’s and women’s basketball teams—so I wasn’t really upset. It was a trivial thing, but I was confused why someone would be so hurtful. When I asked a friend down the hall why someone would do something like that, he looked at me like I was the most naïve person on the face of the Earth. In reality, I probably was.

“Some people just aren’t nice, Brian,” he said grabbing a tray from our dorm cafeteria.

“We rise by lifting others.”

—Robert Ingersoll

One for you, one for me

I grew up in a relatively rural area and most of my friends and acquaintances in my small-town were a lot like me. They didn’t have a lot of money, but they still had enough. They believed in God or said they did, and even if they didn’t, they still followed the Golden Rule of treating others, like they would like to be treated, or at least that’s what I always thought.

I fell asleep that night wracking my brain trying to figure out if I had done something to hurt the guy or guys who had “ransacked” my room. I came up with nothing. I had done nothing to hurt them, but they went out of their way to hurt me. For the first time in my life, it started to hit me that not everyone is built the same way.

Oh, I knew that bad people existed, I knew too that you didn’t have to look too far to find true evil. I knew that people came from different backgrounds and that some people had money and some didn’t, some people were racist and most weren’t, but I still believed that everyone was basically like me.

Oh, yes, I was in for a rude awakening.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that continues to hit me again and again. Oh, I understand that few saints walk among us, but I generally believe in the good in people. While that’s nice in the best of times, it can still come back to haunt me.

“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”

—Rosa Parks

Class is in session

A number of years ago, I was working on a big project with a colleague. We were spending every hour we could spare on the project. It was important for my company and would help my department meet several of our goals. I thought my colleague and I were on the same page. I found out the hard way that he was talking behind my back and going out of his way to undercut my contributions.

When a third person brought it to my attention that my teammate was working against me, I couldn’t believe the news. I didn’t want to believe it. When I brought the issue up, my colleague flat out admitted that he was out for himself, I stood in his way, and he planned to do everything in his disposal to step over me and achieve his personal success.

What my colleague failed to take into account was that our manager knew my work from years earlier and believed in me, but I still couldn’t fathom that someone would be so devious and out for themselves.

I didn’t want to believe it. Fortunately for me, my “friend”, the colleague who was out for himself, wasn’t long for my company. He soon got the boot.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

—Desmond Tutu

Still learning

Of course, when you throw into the equation race, religion, gender, and a million other stereotype boxes that we make for ourselves, the problem gets worse. So during these turbulent times, I still get surprised that people can be so mean to each other. 

I see the conflicts around the world and even in my own community and I remain shocked that we’re still fighting these trivial battles. We may have different skin colors, belong to different religions or even political parties, but, the end of the day, we all still have the same basic needs.

I’m convinced that small people exist everywhere, I just need to make sure that I stay true true to my values and remember the good.

In other words, treat others as I would want to be treated.

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

—Elie Wiesel

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