Learning To Never Judge A Book or Person By Its Cover
What's inside can often surprise you
For many years of my life I was involved in the local branch of national veterans organization. I joined at a time when there were still active WW1, WW2 and Korea War veterans. I learned a lot while meeting some interesting characters.
My mind went today to one in particularly who taught me to not judge quickly. What you see is not always what you get as you learn the person’s heart.
Sam Was A WW2 Veteran
I’m going to call this fellow Sam. Some people who may eventually read this might recognize who he is but nothing I’m going to say is really bad anyways.
Sam was an overseas veteran of WW2. He served in the European theater although I never actually learned which countries he was in. I learned pretty quickly to let veterans choose what they are going to share, some of it can be pretty painful.
Returned Home to Farm
Most vets in those days were just expected to pick up and get on with life. That wasn’t always easy, some had been profoundly changed. Veterans organizations helped them to find a place where they could come together and support each other without having to explain.
When Sam returned home he took up farming. He often worked hard at his farming but never really succeeded. That was in part the result of some of his time being taken up with drink. I don’t judge veterans who took up drinking, it was their way of coping with what we would later come to recognize as PTSD. Not a healthy way, but it was the only way they knew.
By the time I met Sam his farm was pretty run down. To see him, so was he. Spending time with him and his wife often felt like being part of an episode of Ma and Pa Kettle. I was told that a visit to their home at certain times of the year would mean sharing kitchen space with stacks of farm supplies that hadn’t made it to the barn yet, or maybe ever. Things were pretty rudimentary.
Sam Wanting to Work A Bar
Sam loved the organization though and put a lot of time into helping do things like organizing sports tourneys. He served on the executive as Sports Officer for many years. Now, keep in mind, sports meant things like playing cards and darts. You know, things that any age could do and enjoy a drink while doing so.
When my late husband was in charge of the volunteer bars, Sam approached him wanting to volunteer on a bar. My husband told me he didn’t want him on the bar. His scruffy appearance wouldn’t be a good look for the organization and he was afraid that he’d get drunk and make things worse.
I agreed with him. As much as I understood and respected the vets, I’d winced more than once watching a branch officer carrying out his duties drunk. It’s never a good experience.
Sam’s son was married to the President’s daughter. It didn’t take long before the President informed my husband he was schedule Sam for a bar. They argued but the Prez stood his ground. A bar was scheduled, a small one to limit the exposure if Sam behaved as expected.
Sam arrived and my jaw dropped. I was wondering who the imposter was he sent in his place. He was cleaner than I’d ever seen him. He was dressed in black trousers, a white shirt — white, like really white and a black tie. I was gobsmacked as were many of those who attended the event and talked to me later. We had judged his every day behaviour and didn’t give him a chance.
Meeting Sam’s Daughter
My next surprise about Sam was the day I was working the bar for one of his sports tournaments. This gorgeous redhead who had been helping Sam came up to the bar, ordered a drink and started chatting with me.
Along came my husband who got this little smirk on his face as he introduced me to the redhead as Sam’s daughter. Before I could catch myself, my jaw literally dropped. She started laughing and told me she often gets that reaction. Turns out by blood she was her mother’s daughter.
Her mother had an affair while Sam was overseas. When he returned, he forgave her and took the newborn as his own. My esteem of Sam rose again. He never struck me as a person who could forgive and accept like that.
Sam’s Experience With the Holocaust
The last example I share today is one which took place during an executive meeting after I became President. We were approaching Remembrance Day, a time we remember and honour the horrors and sacrifice of war.
I proposed the executive invite a survivor of the Holocaust to speak to local schools and our annual dinner. One of the executive objected, he went off on an anti-semitic rant which had me just stunned. As I was collecting myself to put a stop to the behaviour I caught sight of Sam at the far end of the table becoming very agitated.
Having dealt with the member, I turn to Sam and gently offered him the floor. The table fell silent as an emotional Sam spoke about having accompanied his commanding officer on a tour of a death camp the day after it was liberated.
He finished by looking right at the objecting member and firmly told him, “Attitudes like yours led to the suffering I saw there. You need to stop.” The member never answered as he shamefaced studied his belt buckle.
I struggled to keep my composure seeing Sam’s heart as I’d never seen it before. He was a book cover often judged and rarely read. I’d have been poorer if I’d not seen him as I did.
We will remember them.
Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms.
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