BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

John Denney 18 January 2006

At First Glance


Once upon a time, a weary tramp was travelling through these parts and chanced upon the "George and Dragon", a roadside inn. The door was closed, so he knocked. The innkeeper's wife stuck her head out a window. "Could I get something to eat?" he asked. The woman glanced at his shabby clothes and obviously poor condition. "No!" she said rather sternly. "Could I have a pint of beer?" "No!" she said again. "Could I at least sleep in your stable?" "No!" she shouted. The tramp said, "Erm could I, erm ?" "What now?" the woman interrupted impatiently. "Well, d'you suppose I might have a word with George?"


It's so easy to jump to conclusions about people. Psychologists say we make up our minds about someone within 30 seconds of meeting them. We don't always get it right, though. In the 1970s, one of the mega-rich Michelin brothers of the tyre company, used to go to Michelin-starred restaurants dressed very much like the tramp I mentioned earlier. If he was badly treated by the restaurant, perhaps not even being allowed in, he took away their Michelin star rating.


What matters about people isn't what you see as their physical appearance, or what your preconceptions are about them, but what they are like deep down. In the Bible, there's a verse that refers to Jesus. It says The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone![1] In other words (as my mother used to say): you shouldn't judge a sausage by its skin.


How are we about tramps and chavs and asylum seekers and beggars? Maybe we should see them as people, not as stereotypes.


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[1] Psalm 118:22 MSG