A lady in a faded grey dress and her husband in a home-spun suit walked into the Harvard University president's outer office, without an appointment. The secretary decided in a moment that such country folk had no business at Harvard and definitely didn't deserve to be in the president's office.
“We want to see the president,” the man said softly.
“He'll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped.
“We'll wait,” the lady replied.
For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would become discouraged and go away. When they didn't the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president....
“Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they'll leave,” she said to him. The president, stern faced and dignified, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, “We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial for him somewhere on the campus.”
The president wasn't touched.... He was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly, “We can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”
“Oh no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don't want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.”
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the lady's dress and the man's homespun suit, and exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any idea how much a building costs? We have spent over seven-and-a-half million dollars on the buildings here at Harvard.”
For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now. The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don't we just start our own?” Her husband nodded. The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
Leland Stanford and his wife got up and walked away, travelling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name: Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.
Dear Readers, think back on how often we have judged people by their outward appearance... this guy is uneducated, this person is arrogant, this girl is proud, this boy is a showoff, how poor this classmate is, old people are very orthodox.
We tend to make hasty judgements based on shallow facts – appearance, colour, dress, speech or the work a person does. These are not sound judgements, they are assumptions and can mislead us. We treat such people badly and we lose genuine friends, good advisors and sincere soul mates. We (like chameleons) change our behaviour according to the person we are talking to: polite to people of importance, curt and often rude to those we consider underlings.
Every day, at work, at home, in the mall, at the theatre, walking down the road, in the park, in phone conversations and through e-mail we make hasty judgements about others and often without a bit of evidence. We form an opinion about a person or a matter without the slightest proof, and without any contact.
Let's take a close look at ourselves in the mirror. How often do we after hearing a moral lesson think about how it applies to someone else? How often do we make comments like ‘A is guilty of this error’ or ‘B did that’ rather than ask, ‘How does this apply to me, how can I correct this in myself?’? True education is not about finding fault with others but rather identifying our drawbacks and correcting them. The attitude of continuous criticism is a reflection of our own low self esteem, it makes us look great in others' eyes, when someone else is wrong we look good!
Instead of thinking “What is wrong with that person?” why don't we start thinking, “How can I help them?”. Instead of making hasty, prejudiced and very often baseless assumptions, why don't we try to put ourselves in their place and then judge them? Why don't we treat everyone with the same yardstick and simply accept people as they are?