If you have a heartbeat and a pulse, you judge! It’s only human. It starts when we’re kids. Someone else is prettier, uglier, smarter, dumber, faster, slower, better, or worse than ourselves or some other measuring stick we use. Sometimes our judgments are spot on but, most of the time, they are so far off the mark, we are, or at least should be, embarrassed that we even thought what we did. Can you think of time when this happened? I can…

Jeff and I were vacationing in the Bahamas. It was a slice of heaven. Finally, two weeks away from the everyday pressures of running our training & development company. Our cottage was right on the beach, a premier golf course a stone’s throw away and the weather couldn’t have been better if we ordered it up special – warm, sunny days with cool, tropical nights.

After a round of golf one morning, we decided to take a walk on the beach. We’re about ½ mile from our cottage, surrounded by white sand, crystal-clear water, sand pipers and an occasional seagull when, down the beach about 100 yards from us, a figure appeared. As we drew closer, the figure started to come into focus. Jeff and I slowed down. He gripped my hand more firmly while I started to look around to see where we could run and hide. The man was tall, lean, with dreadlocks down to his waist, a cigarette dangling from his lips, a full I-don’t-give-a-damn beard, and a knife strapped to his thigh. Did I mention he was wearing only a loin-cloth? To me he looked like a character out of an action novel. Someone I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley or on a deserted beach like this one.

We slowed our pace as he picked his up. When we were within 10 feet of each other, he stopped, smiled and greeted us with a delightful British accent asking how we were enjoying his ‘paradise’. Thank goodness we were tanned. It hid the embarrassment that flushed our faces. Our initial judgment was 100% wrong. As it turned out, Thomas was a former English professor from London who decided to ‘simplify’ his life. He traded his elbow-patched jacket for a loin cloth, his books for a fishing knife and his 9 to 5 job for a ‘life’. For the rest of our vacation, Thomas met us in front of our cottage and ‘took our order’. He would paddle his row boat out into the deep water, with his knife in his mouth, jump overboard and catch us the ‘special of the day’…grouper, lobster, or conch. He taught us how to remove the conch from its shell, properly prepare grouper to be roasted on an open fire and the difference between shrimp, prawns and crays. An unbelievable vacation made better by a chance meeting. One that never would have happened if we had acted on our initial judgment and turned and walked away from what, we perceived to be a threat.

It seems today, the world is judging – everyone for everything. Seldom do we take a step back and learn, in the words of Paul Harvey, “The rest of the story”. As mentioned, ‘judging’, is human, natural and could be so very wrong. What I try to remember when making a ‘snap judgment’ are the words of Earl Nightingale, “When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

Thank you, Thomas, for an invaluable life lesson. Happy Fishing!

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