Some of the people usually make immediate judgment whenever they land their eyes on something or somebody for the very first time. All of us often make prejudgments merely based on outlook and not on true understanding of the matter at hand. As Descartes puts it, ”appearance is not reality”, by substituting appearance with reality; I have always convinced myself to confide entirely in what I think instead of what I actually know and understand.
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Oftentimes, people say “never judge a book by its cover”. This is undisputed truth. It is wrong to prejudge someone merely based on the way they look, the way they dress and the type of car they own, as it is not the responsibility of people to judge others. It is only through their struggle that they have been able to afford basic needs like clothing, food and shelter. It is also within their endeavors that they have been able to afford some luxuries such as cars.
For decades, this statement has been on the air waves, but I failed to make use of it when I was young, particularly in the fourth grade. Truth be said, I have always been a person who could not hold onto a word and also shy about closing my mouth. With this, I have always thought, especially in my childhood, that every person is a parrot. However, this behavior has been my stronghold when it comes to getting along with other people. I get along well with people and everybody I have come in contact with knows me as a sociable person, but that time, in the fourth grade, I had not sharpened my skills to evaluate people.
Not once, I became accustomed to a little shy Chinese girl in an oversize red hoodie passing-by empty front sits to the lonely back of the class. She never used to bite a word with any person. Not even smiled at anyone at least for the better part of the time we shared classes. I recall, in most cases whenever asked questions by the teachers, Shoe would merely respond with gestures-either shaking her head or frowning. Her shyness appealed to me. I remember one day she registered to class late, and since her back seat had been occupied by someone else, she sighed off in the empty seat next to me. Someone would have thought I preserved the seat for her. Of course, just like with a stranger in the house, at first, I felt very uneasy towards her, as she always seemed unsettled in the class. I did not want to continue sitting next to her, I thought. She appeared reserved. Little did I know, I was going to be her neighbor for a number of days. She seemed to have liked my presence at once. I garnered some strength to talk to her, but she cut me off in cold. I did not bother anymore. I thought maybe she was created a hermit.
I recall bringing her into conversation with other girls during lunch break that day. I must say, that I am ashamed to admit, we talked amongst other things the way she dresses, the way she walks, the way her parents behaved whenever they came to pick her up from school, and at some point we also talked about the size of her parents and where they lived. Once I was left alone, I felt so sorry about what we had talked about. I came from a well-to-do family with my father holding a very influential position in the government. However, whenever I think about his words of counsel, I feel renewed. “To grow up into something, you should never negatively make other your subject of discussion”. For over a week following the nitpicking affair, I was remorseful about it. In one of our straight talk lessons that very week, our teacher touched on appearance and reality and mentioned that these two notions are like the two sides of a coin and cannot be used interchangeably.
In the church sermon the following Sabbath, my bible study teacher repeatedly talked about understanding people, our friends, our neighbors through deeper look at them and that having a second look at others is always the best thing one can do as he or she grows up into an adult. The bible study teacher said, “A person is known by what he or she carries in his or her heart and soul”. I was challenged to approach the young girl differently.
I decided to confront her the following day. Therefore, I collected and recollected my self-esteem, as I did not want to end up looking like a spy or someone who would be viewed as making fun. I had earnestly planned what to be conversed and how to engage her. I reported to school much earlier so I could see her and weigh the situation in advance. However, something seemed to have gone wrong. She did not turn up as usual and our teachers were not turning up for classes. Through my friend, I learned that the girls had survived a horrifying incident-domestic violence and was receiving treatment at a nearby health center.
After school, before the sun went to sleep, I requested my parents to accompany me to the hospital so I could see and console her. I must admit that it was at her bedside that my eyes were opened and stupidity slapped out of me. She did not have biological parents. They had passed on when her first milk teeth were still cutting their way. They had gone swimming in the waters of Saint Lawrence Seaway when their boat capsized. She was ashore as she watched with her little eyes how her parents were making their last breath of air.
They must have struggled in vain trying to save themselves, I thought to myself for a while. I once watched the proverbial titanic move whereupon hitting the iceberg; it left people swimming for their lives and it really impressed me. Where was I, yeah, after that time, she was adopted by her aunt but just like her parents, she lived to witness another shocking death. Her aunt had travelled by air for a church retreat to some parts in East Asia when the news of their disappearance hit the screen. The plane had sacked in the black abyss of the Indian Ocean. A formidable team of mariners was sent deep into the ocean to collect the remains of the plain but they have never come back.
Therefore, since she was three, she had gone through different care centers and hands of well-wishers, and her current home did not give her anything good. She was mistreated. She had never been given a chance to explore the world just like other kids in the neighborhoods. On this very day, she narrated us how she was mercilessly beaten and pushed over the stairs making several rolls and how she fractured her two arms. I was taken aback. In times when everybody including government was advocating for children rights, I did not have any slightest thought that under the carpet were laying things that were always cooking not for the better. This episode was as awakening call to me. It made me realize the importance and contribution of my parents to my life. I really appreciated them more since that moment.
That very night, I sneaked into the prayer room in our house without anybody noticing and I cried to God to have mercy on the little poor girl. I specifically prayed for her condition to improve. Additionally, I prayed for her to find a good place where she could sit in blue lit veranda and watching the slowly disappearing sun over the horizon, she could say “yeah, I deserved better”. Two weeks after the shameful incident, she reported back to school, and this time I did not see someone I had known previously. She came straight to where I was seated and without a word, she stretched her arm towards me and at the glare of the entire class said only two words, “Thank You”. I felt her hand, though it was weak, it was driving in me a mixed feeling of remorsefulness and happiness. Once, she had settled, she told me that she had been put under the custody of the hospital management and was looking forward to her uncle’s place in Houston Texas.
It took no more than two months before she joined her uncle and moved to his house. From the exchanges we used to make through mails, she was enjoying the stay at her new home. We are still keeping in touch and we are still very good friends. She passed her high school diploma with a first class that granted her with a scholarship and with a direct entry to the coveted Harvard University where she is now studying oil engineering. Being a new course, she will be the only woman who knows what and how to do with oil underground.
From that time, I come to realize that physical appearance and reality are two different things. One is deceiving and the other does not lie. When it is said that never judge a book by its cover, this metaphor holds water. It is ill advised to belittle and humiliate others based merely on outward appearance or presentation. It is wrong to ascribe to misleading advice especially of those who never cease making gossips and rumors. It is perfectly out of order to prejudge and even judge other people without trying to understand them. Instead, we should take time to listen to them, understand them, and above all take a second look at the person, and empathically relate to his or her story. Just like the Chinese girl, life operates like a seesaw, it can tip and rise on either side.