ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

YOU CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS MULLET

Hudson is a really nice guy.  That’s probably what got him into trouble.

You see, my older sister, Amy, is going to cosmetology school, and last week the girls in her school put on a fashion show.  Each student selected a theme and styled two models.

Hudson just happened to be at my house when Amy arrived.  Explaining to us the theme she had chosen, Hudson reluctantly agreed to be one of her models.  After all, her theme would call for a classic Frank Sinatra-type look.  How bad could that be?

Pretty bad, it turns out.

The day before the show Hudson went in for his hair cut.  As Amy greeted him he could tell that something was up.   Apparently she had been flipping through magazines and found a whole new theme she wanted to do: Punk Rocker.  Because he had already committed to the show – and because he’s a really nice guy – he smiled and said, “Sure.  I trust you.”

And so the pain began.

After what seemed like hours under the scissors, Hudson was finally ready to see what had been done to him.  Turning to face the mirror, his jaw dropped.  He could barely recognize himself with pink hair and a spiky mullet.  He tried to laugh it off, knowing that in three days it would be gone.  But he couldn’t figure out how he was going to get through the two days in between during which he would have to attend school and work as usual.

During this period of time Hudson noticed many different reactions to his Crayola-colored hair.  His mom couldn’t stop taking pictures and his dad couldn’t stop laughing.

Some of the reactions were hurtful.  Adults stared, children pointed, and his friends suddenly didn’t want to hang out with him.  He found himself wondering what the problem was.  He knew why he looked the way he did, and he knew he wasn’t any different inside than when he looked clean-cut and all-American on the outside.  He could hear people whispering behind him, making comments about him being too wild.  Some people were even afraid of him.

Returning to his car one night after a concert he found himself walking toward a noticeably nervous teenager, who was pacing in front of his car.  As Hudson got closer he noticed the kid becoming ever more anxious.  When he started to unlock his car the trembling teenager walked up to him.

“I was backing out and hit your car,” he said.  “That big dent in your door is my fault.”

Hudson shut his door and looked at the damage.  Then he smiled.

“It’s no problem,” Hudson said.  “It doesn’t look any different to me.”

“But there’s a huge dent in it,” said the new, nervous driver.

“I know,” Hudson replied, still smiling.  “I did that about a year ago when I ran into a pole.  No worries, man.  It’s alright.”

The boy, who clearly had been expecting trouble from this hard-looking punk, took one last look at Hudson – his eyes focused on Hudson’s rosy coiffure – before he hurried off.

Hudson was relieved when he could finally return to his normal look.  As far as he was concerned, the wild and freaky Hudson didn’t act any different than the straight-laced Hudson.  He was still the same guy – a really nice guy – with or without the pink, punk hair.  But he sure was treated different.

And that has made me think.  Every day I encounter people who have different styles and different ideas.  How often do I judge them – for good or for ill – without actually knowing anything about them?  First impressions can be deceiving – especially if we don’t take the time and effort to dig deeper.  What really counts is what’s inside people.

Because you never know when there’s going to be a pink mullet on a really nice guy.

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— © Joseph Walker

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E-mail Joseph at: valuespeak@msn.com 

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