“Things are not always as they appear” as our favorite childhood movie character Mary Poppins says, staring into a mirror while sharing words of wisdom and virtue with Michael and Jane.
This has always seemed to be the greatest struggle of mine: assumption. I have been humbled time and time again with my assumptions of others being completely contrary to what is actually true about someone. Some of these assumptions came from hearsay or from the way I thought they looked. It amazes me how several words of gossip you hear can form your opinions of others when you do not even know them.
One of my first experiences living in a college dorm was my encounter with Paul. This young man dressed like the typical sports guys I used to know through high school. The kind of guys that were always weightlifting and partying on weekends. Paul was dressed with his favorite basketball jersey and smiled like nothing could go wrong in his world. My assumption: he was fake and he was putting on a show. He appeared to me as someone who I would never be friends with, even though my girlfriends would tell me how nice he was. In any case, I kept my assumptions.
One day, I saw him having a lively conversation with another young man. The other young man was not someone who had many friends. He was very small and had a good deal of acne. Seeing Paul speak to him astonished me. Eventually I saw Paul hanging out with the young man all the time. Paul introduced him to his friend group and made him feel welcomed. But most of all Paul made him feel loved.
As time persisted, I could see everything that appeared to me to be true about Paul was wrong. I even became acquainted with him. I realized that his loving actions towards others were the driving reality of who he was and not what he dressed liked or what I thought about him. Hildebrand insists that “...the personality of the one who loves has also a great influence on the quality of the love.” (1) Paul’s intentions were pure towards the young man which were sustained as their friendship developed.
I found out later on that the young man was not planning on returning to school the next semester because he didn't feel it was the place for him. He did not feel accepted. But through Paul’s consistent love towards him, the young man stayed the next four years of school. The young man ended up playing on the basketball team, and leads a fraternity on campus. His confidence expanded and he is now learning to serve others in the same way as Paul did.
If we took a moment to overcome our egos and not be concerned about what others think of us, we too can make a difference in someone else’s life. Paul’s simple invitation “hey come hang out with us” ended up changing the young man’s life forever. Therefore, let us love greatly, let us love purely, let us not pass judgment based on mere appearance so that we can give of ourselves in a meaningful love.
Image 1. Narcissus
 Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Nature of Love. South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2009. p. 62