Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Perception and Perpetrators

The Cookie Thief
by Valerie Cox

A woman was waiting at the airport one night,
with several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see
that the man beside her, as bold as could be,
grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,
which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
thinking, "If I weren't so nice, I'd blacken his eye!"

With each cookie she took, he took one too.
When only one was left, she wondered what he'd do.
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
he took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, and he ate the other.
She snatched it from him and thought...Oooh brother.
This guy has some nerve, and he's also so rude.
Why, he didn't even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled
and sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
refusing to look at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

"If mine are here," she moaned with despair.
"Then the others were his, and he tried to share!"
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

This cute but astute poem makes me chuckle and gives me pause. How many times have I been absolutely certain that I understood the dynamics of a situation, only to realize that what I believed to be truth was merely a product of my own skewed perceptions? The answer, I'm sure, is too many times! We would all do well to avoid jumping to conclusions, refuse to make snap judgments about people, and get acquainted with our own faults before we project them on others.

Things are not always as they appear, and we are free to choose our responses to whatever comes our way. We can have a good-natured sense of humor about life and those who live it alongside us (like the supposed cookie thief) or we can be ill-tempered and quick to take offense (like the actual cookie thief).

Our court system holds an accused person innocent until proven guilty, and there are good reasons for that. Any court official would testify that the initial perceptions of even the most well-intentioned people can be faulty, and reason suggests that the perceptions of an irritated person will be even more faulty, as will any snap judgments he or she chooses to make. What's more, our observations and interpretations are unfailingly colored by our own shortcomings, whatever those may be.

The takeaway, for me, is this: It's never a bad idea to hear others out before painting them with the brush of deceit or other wrong-doing. Figurative paint sticks every bit as well as literal paint does (maybe better), and the painter who applies it too hastily is left with dirty hands.

{let's keep it clean out there}


Laraine Eddington said...

I haven't trusted my eyes since third grade when I got glasses and discovered trees had leaves. Things are definitely not always what they seem.

Laraine Eddington said... the title

karen said...

I can't even begin to tell you how many times something like that has happened to me - and every time I've gotten outwardly angry it's blown up in my face. I have always been the one to have made the mistake. So I'm learning (slowly) to be slow to anger. Ask questions. Give the benefit of the doubt. Most of all, be charitable and patient - all of the niceties I'd like shown to me when I am (inevitably) wrong.

Anonymous said...

Another great post filled with wonderful advice as always sweet Sue. I have liked that poem since the first time I ever read it. I have found that most times things are not at all as they seem. Hugs

Jo said...

great post Sue ... It is all too easy to point a finger, without realizing that when you do, you have 3 ringers pointing back at you ...

Caroline said...

I love that advice, Sue and I loved this story. This is a good lesson for me because all too often I rely on my gut feelings to dictate what I think about a situation. And while that may be a good instinct to use from time to time, it's certainly not always the best route. Especially when making judgements about something like a person's motivations behind their actions, etc.

Your wisdom is a gift to us, Sue!

yaya said...

Gee, I didn't know you were following me around yesterday as I lost my temper at work...again...and then found out it wasn't really as bad as I had made it out to be. Humbling for sure, but each time I do it, I try harder to reform! Now if I could just get my temper to reform..and I'm not even a red head! Thanks for the post I really needed to read!

Brian Miller said...

well our court system did until the new law went into affect in december where americans can be detained...but that is a side point...

def a good story...and the key to perceptions is realizing we all have them and are best when shared and learned from....

anitamombanita said...

Great post. I was wondering if the actual ownership might not be in question. It's almost always good to think before judging!

Stacy Crawford said...

I love that poem too...might need to use it with my students.

I am learning that life lesson a lot lately. ;)

Eva Gallant said...

Loved the poem!

Polly Janos said...

Sue...this spoke to my heart. Wonderful post and wise words. Who hasn't jumped to a conclusion or two, or made a sudden assumption based on very little fact? Guilty as charged.

Pondside said...

I've done it - leapt to a too-fast conclusion. Every year, in the justice system, there are people who are found innocent by reason of new scientific evidence. For this reason, especially, I think that we humans need to distance ourselves from the death penalty.

Stef said...

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. And how quick I am to assume other people's lives. It is just a bad idea. "In the quiet heart is hidden..." who knows what. Always better to just love.

Darlene said...

I really did like this poem. I have never heard it before, so wasn't really prepared for the ending. So true though, we are usually too quick to judge. I have done this too and unfortunately have a temper to go with it, so have had to eat humble pie a few times.

Glad you brought it to my attention with this post. The poem was very well done.

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