Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Speaking of oranges ....

Suppose you selected a nice bright orange from the stand at the farmer's market.  When you cut it open, you'd expect to see juicy orange sections inside?  You might wonder if it would be sweet or sour, but otherwise, you'd feel pretty confident about what you'd see.

Even if you had never seen an orange inside, the match between the outside and inside would make it a pretty un-surprising experience. A no-brainer, so to speak.

Now take the kiwi.  Its fuzzy, rough, exterior gives no hint of the sweet, juicy, bright green interior.  Someone seeing a kiwi cut open for the very first time would be understandably surprised. But we're all kiwi sophisticates here, right?  We know about the secret green interior, so we're not fooled at all. We have experienced kiwis before. It may have taken a few times, but we're ready for it now.

Now suppose for a moment, that you went to that farmer's market, and you selected a big orange.  And you cut it open, only to find that instead of the orange segments, there was a soft green interior.   A kiwi center in an orange wrapper. Even a sophisticated, in-the-know kiwi pro would be shocked at this point, right?

I was thinking about oranges and kiwis after I stopped for a snack at a neighborhood fast food place the other day.  Ahead of me, heading for the entrance door was a young man wearing what most people would consider gang or street attire.  His pants were half way down his behind, with his underwear showing.  The hat, shoes, shirt and jewelry were all what we have come to expect from young men in what are called "economically challenged" neighborhoods if we're PC or "slums" if we're not. And truth be told, the neighborhood where I had stopped would fit either description. 

As I approached the door behind this young man, he stopped, waited for me, and held open the door.  I thanked him, and he replied "You're welcome, ma'am" and smiled. 

And that got me thinking.  

If I was to look at this young man like the orange, I would have expected his insides to resemble his outside.  I might even have been afraid or at least nervous when he stopped just ahead of me, expecting an action to match his attire and his surroundings. Many people are afraid to stop in or even drive through poorer neighborhoods, because they are absolutely sure the inside and outside are the same. 

If I knew the young man, over time I would have learned something about him.  And based on those experiences, I might have understood that the exterior concealed something entirely different inside. I might have, like the kiwi-experienced, known what to expect. 

But this was something entirely different.  This was the orange outside, with a surprising kiwi inside. And it was wonderful because it snapped me out of my complaisance. 

So now I'm wondering... how often do we act on the basis of our orange or kiwi experiences -- believing we know what's inside. And how often are we wrong, but don't stick around long enough to find out? 

I'm not sure it's even possible, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we could approach each exterior, whether it's a person or an experience or a challenge without being so darn sure we know what's inside?  If we could suspend our judgement, even for just a minute, and wait to see for ourselves with fresh eyes. 

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