Nathan has a friend who looks like a drug addict. He is skeletal, has intense eyes, facial piercings, lives in Newtown and is covered from neck to toe in tattoos. Despite his appearance, Carl is one of the nicest people you could ever expect to meet. He is decent, honest and thoughtful. When I got back to Melbourne yesterday evening I was pleasantly surprised to see Carl waiting for me at the gate. He and his girlfriend were flying back home to Sydney. And even though their flight was soon to depart from another part of the airport and even though I have only met the guy two or three times, he made the effort. How nice was that? A pleasant surprise (though I think his appearance may have frightened my sister and her fiance).
Catching up with Carl had me reflecting this morning about people judging others by their appearance. The owner of Carl's local asian take-away once said to Carl's dad "your son nice boy but he look like junkie". Imagine that. You go to the shop everyday to buy your vietnamese spring rolls and the whole time the woman behind the counter thinks you're a heroine addict. I'm not any better. I once stood next to a black guy on a desserted train platform in Boston. He wore one of those black puffy jackets, had a baseball cap on his head, and had his hands in his pockets. I actually thought he was going to pull a knife on me. He didn't. The train soon arrived, we both got on, and went our merry ways (well, actually, I ended up catching the wrong train and got lost... bad karma for racist thoughts?). In hindsight, it WAS the end of Winter (the temperature was still minus-God-knows-how-many degrees) so wearing a puffy jacket and having your hands in your pocket actually makes good sense. And yet the things that ran through my head on the platform that day still disturbs me. True, I guess we all make judgements about people based on appearance. but it's not always grounded in reality and it's not always right.