Beyond the surface level: an acquaintance today and a friend tomorrow


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Everyone has a story: don’t judge a cover before you’ve read the content.

Sara Freitag, Opinion Editor

Eighteen years ago, a small blonde-haired, blue-eyed young girl dragged herself into a classroom filled with children who looked nothing like her.  They spoke a language that she could speak and understand yet felt like chalk within her mouth.

It was my first day of first grade.  My family had been living in Italy for twelve years, and though I essentially grew up there, it never felt like home.  It may come as a shock to those who know the confident, outgoing and adventure-seeking woman that I am today, but I was painfully shy as a child.

To further proliferate these feelings of uneasiness, my school-days, though highlighted by friendly girls and fascinated boys, were ultimately tainted by two young ladies who gave me endless trouble.  I can now (many years removed and emotions un-invested) recognize the resilience and life-long lessons I gleaned through these years I spent as the stereotyped “odd ball out.”  Though, at the time, the best part of my day was seeing my mom’s smiling face as I escaped what felt like a prison in which I was almost the only “different” one.

I have a dream – a dream which consists of individuals looking past the surface.  Searching beyond appearances and dismissing stereotypes which inevitably consume our minds.  I have a dream that individuals will settle their differences.  At the end of the day, we are all human beings with a desire to love and be loved.

How many times have you walked into a classroom and purposefully sat next to someone who looks like you?  If we were in a classroom setting, I would bet that many would raise our hands.

There is nothing wrong with being attracted to those who look like us and presumably have similar interests.  This is how I have made some of my best friends in school.  But as a journalist, I am reminded of a truth that has been ingrained in me since my years of living in Italy.  That is that everyone has a story, and you don’t know what it is until you dig deep.

Don’t be afraid to get to know the person sitting next to you in class.  Whether they look like you or not, they have an intricately woven story which is unlike any other you will come across.  This implicates the necessity to release prejudices and refrain from “judging a book by its cover.”

Most of us have at one point experienced the discomfort of being judged or stereotyped based on surface level attributes.  Why not prevent further perpetuation of such occurrences by proactively seeking ways to eliminate stereotyping and promote understanding?

We are surrounded by a wealth of information on a daily basis.  I’m not referring to the information your smartphone provides, but rather the heart of someone you may call an acquaintance today and a friend tomorrow.

I challenge you.  This term, reach out to just one person who may seem different from you.  Make the effort to dig deep and get to know them beyond the surface level.  It will change you.  It will change them.  It will change our campus.  And it will change society.