As a writer, I love silently observing people and turning my observations into the most poignant of stories. If I can make you think about something real without even trying, I've done my job. This one came to me today as I was walking and thinking about my two years here in Raleigh.
I want you to imagine that it's Christmas and you're at a gift exchange with your friends. It's not the standard type of gift exchange where every person gets a gift for every other person. It's the type where everyone brings one gift, and you only get one. Everyone has a different name for it, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. On the gift table, you see the most beautiful package. It's decorated with shiny wrap and a big bow. You imagine that whatever is in that box must be awesome. Next to it is a small box that is plain white. It's not decorated or wrapped, and the box is slightly damaged. You shrug and go back to admiring the big, beautifully wrapped package.
The gift exchange begins, and you go straight for that beautiful package. Of course, so does everyone else. You have it in your hands, and then someone takes it and leaves you with the simple damaged white box. You're disappointed, but, as luck would have it, you end up being able to trade back. Now, it's time to open the gift. You're so excited! You tear off the bow and the pretty wrapping paper and open the box. Inside, you see a pile of packing peanuts. You dig around, looking for the gift but all you find is packing peanuts and air. That beautiful package had nothing of value inside, but you wanted it so badly because you only saw the outside. You're disappointed and angry.
Across the room, you hear an excited shriek. The person you traded with has just opened the small, plain, damaged white box. Inside, they found a Visa gift card worth $500. You're furious. You could have had that gift, but you passed it up because you didn't like the way it looked at first glance. It's too late to get it back now. That gift belongs to someone else, someone who looked past the plain damaged box it was in and struck gold when they discovered what was inside.
The moral of this story is obvious, and it's one of the most damaging values upheld by today's society. Media encourages people to be shallow and superficial, to choose their friends and partners based on appearance rather than what really matters: what's inside. If you're brave enough to go against what's popular and throw that ideology out the window, you just may discover the best gift ever. So, next time you meet someone whose packaging isn't perfect, do yourself a favor and take a look inside the box before you form an opinion about them. After all, that pretty packaging goes away with time but a beautiful soul lasts a lifetime.