First Impressions

girl with lips piercingA convenience store I frequent recently hired a new employee.  She looks to be in her early twenties…around the age of my daughters.  She has multiple face piercings and a purple punked-out hairdo.

The first time she waited on me, she seemed a tad unfriendly.  Her response to my cheerful greeting was a bit abrupt.  My general impression was that she had a punk attitude to match her punk hairstyle and piercings.  It’s not that she said anything mean or disrespectful.  But her body language and facial expressions seemed to convey that she didn’t really want to be there.

Over the next couple of weeks, she seemed to warm a little.  Her response to my greeting seemed less tense.  Still, she came across as not very friendly.

Yesterday, I stopped to fill my gas tank and grab a quick lunch to eat on my drive back to work.  Punk Girl took my order and bagged my fish fillets.  I paid her with exact change, grabbed my lunch and walked out with a quick “Have a good afternoon!”

About the time I reached my car, she came running out of the store, waiving a dollar bill, and yelling, “Sir!  Sir!”  As I turned, she ran up and handed me the dollar bill, explaining “The cost was $5.79 and you paid me $6.79!”

“Oh!  I’m sorry!” I replied, “Thank you, so much!”

With a sincere “You’re welcome!” she flashed me the biggest, friendliest, warmest smile!

I drove away realizing that my perception of Punk Girl (whose name I still don’t know) was instantly changed from someone I regarded with a little suspicion to someone I genuinely like.

First impressions aren’t always right…and it’s amazing how impressions can be changed by a simple act of kindness…and a warm smile!

 

When have your first impressions proven to be wrong?

 

13 thoughts on “First Impressions

    • LauraLee, I found myself convicted on two levels.

      First in realizing I had made unfair (and inaccurate) assumptions, and hoping I can do better next time.

      Second in wondering how often I miss an opportunity to be a blessing by a simple act of kindness or a smile.

  1. I love this. We prove the word true when we look and judge by exteriors, for God looks on the heart. To paraphrase Chicago, that’s a hard habit to break 🙂

    • Very true, Rick!

      Since we cannot see the heart, we have little on which to base our perceptions other than outward appearance and behavior. Over a long period of close assocation, that’s a decent measure. For a first impression, it’s a poor measure.

      Thankfully, we can trust God to know the heart and trust Him to lead us.

      Thanks for the insight…and the wisdom gleaned from some good song lyrics! 🙂

      • The neat thing about it? You have a positive impression now, which could lead to conversation, which could lead to wherever God wills it. Gotta love a good opening 🙂

        • Exactly! At a minimum I can introduce myself and ask if she went to school with any of my kids. Who knows how God might lead…or how He’ll choose to bring a blessing?

  2. Joe! You’re back! 😉

    I love this story…I do tend to ‘judge a book by its cover’ far too often -even though I think I make a conscious effort not to. I will try to think about Punk Girl next time I encounter a Punk Girl/Boy of my own. 😉
    No doubt your ongoing cheer had an unexpected impact on her, just as her unexpected honesty had on you.

    • Hey, good to ‘see’ you, Denise!

      Yes, I think snap judgements are largely unavoidable, especially in situations with limited interaction. I think my lesson from this situation is to always remain open to modifying first impressions, and to always treat everyone with respect and good cheer.

      AND…the power of one genuinely warm smile! 🙂

  3. So glad to hear the real voice from Hope!

    I’m very guilty of this guilt by association. The other week a guy walked into church and he was really rough looking — tats, chains, dreadlocks. And my wife, sensing my ‘attitude’ said, “Just thank the Lord that he’s here.”

    That snapped me out of my judgement and I actually took some time to talk to him and found him to be very interesting.

    • Yes, I’ve missed all of you during my blogging hiatus! Good to hear from you, David!

      I’ve found that, given the opportunity, most people are more open and interesting than I’m inclined to expect.

      Of course, there are the exceptions…including some that are downright venomous and/or dangerous. And we can never completely escape our own perceptions based on our own life experiences…nor should we…

      Still, best to give folks the benefit of the doubt, as much as possible.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. Hi, Joe! My trouble has been the reverse too often. I choose not to react to appearance and encounter some individuals with boundary and other issues that I find triggering or don’t know how to respond to. I respect them but have to create distance, which I could have done by judging in the first place. For me the conclusion is that I never know….vibes just don’t work that well for me. On the other hand, I took my computer in for repair yesterday at a large electronics chain. The tech was a thoroughly covered up young Muslim woman. I started joking with her right away. Not only was she fun and a wealth of knowledge, but she also said she was expediting my work order because I was nice and many are surly with her. Unexpected good perk of extending respect and good will. Great post and so good to hear you! Diane

    • Yes, I found myself contemplating the whole boundaries/perceptions issue as I wrote this post.

      I certainly wouldn’t want to drop all my boundary defenses and naively assume everyone’s a good and gracious saint despite indications to the contrary. You and I have both learned hard lessons in the level of deceitfully concealed evil lurking inside some human hearts.

      And, yes, I realize that initial perceptions are based on my own experiences, including lessons learned…and I wouldn’t want to arbitrarily ignore that experiential wisdom. In fact, I want to embrace that wisdom.

      I think the main lesson for me, in this situation, is to try to always remain open to revising first impressions and to always treat everyone with respect and good cheer… and to SMILE! 🙂

      Thank you, Diane, for your insights!

      • I agree, Joe! I am still learning the healthy boundary dance and decide which of my experiential responses are working for me! Being willing to revisit those first impressions is indeed the key.

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