The outer exterior: Three stories, Sara and the Indian Doctor

How important is the outer exterior or what is easily apparent to the eyes?

Sara and the Indian Doctor I will get to later, but first I’ll discuss three stories touching upon this subject of the outer exterior. One is from the prophet scw, the other a Somali nobleman, and the third a British case study on students.

I’d like to first say on the first story I will relate from what I read in a book very long time and it left a powerful impression on me, so much so that I remember the details after so many years yet not the book. With that said I want to say before hand Allah Knows best as I do not want to attribute anything to the prophet scw.

Now onto the first story. The prophet Muhammad among him be peace was at a mosque sitting in a gathering with his companions. A man walked in and the prophet scw turned to those around him and asked what is the opinion on this man. To those on whom the question was posed they answered, he is of high esteem and is of wealth thus if he speaks people listen, if he suggests people take his advice, if he seeks marriage he will not be denied.

Sometime passed and another man walked in and about this man the prophet scw is said to have repeated the same question, what is the opinion on this man. To those on whom the question was posed they answered, he is a poor man and is of little wealth, thus if he speaks no one listens, if suggests anything no one takes his advice, and if seeks marriage he will be turned away. The prophet scw as I read in this book said, the latter man is a much better man than many of the former men.

The second story concerns a Somali nobleman and this story was told to me by my beloved mother. The man’s name is Hirsi and he decided to do an experiment. He visits a neighboring town as a poor man dressed in rags. He asks strangers for instructions and at times for help. At most he encounters a hurried response, hardly a dignified welcome. Hirsi leaves and returns to the same town dressed in very fine clothes and upon a very fine horse. Before he even speaks to pose the same questions he posed as the poor man in rags, word has spread through town that a man of high esteem has arrived. Not only does he receive a dignified welcome, but he is invited to attend lavish gatherings given to his honor. At the feast that is prepared for him by the towns people he informs them of his experiment and that he is the same poor man that was in rags only a few days ago, whom no one paid any attention. He says to them, it is not I that you respect, because I am the same man in the rags, but it is these glittering clothes you honor so let these clothes eat your feast. Hirsi throws his clothes to the food and departs having completed his mission.

The third story I heard from a TED talk and it is about an experiment with school children in the UK. This experiment involves two groups of students. Group 1 are A level students and Group 2 are D level students. The two groups are switched, thus those who actually are A students were tricked into thinking they were at a D level and those who actually are D level were informed they had scored A’s. The teachers were also blinded in the experiment and were not aware of the switch. What the experiment found was that after time the original A level students began to perform very poor and became D level students, some even dropped out. On the flip side the original D level students began to perform much better and became A level students. The switch didn’t only affect the performance of the students, but the experiment found that teachers treated students differently based on the category they were placed in. All because of the label change.

Three very different stories that highlight the outer exterior and its importance to the human perception.

Now who is Sara? During my undergrad years I used to work at the university library. A job that involves frequent interaction with various types of people and since our university library is publically funded the doors are open to everyone including the homeless and many in this population found a safe haven at the library. Sara was a young and beautiful brunette, a librarian finishing up her master’s degree in library sciences at the time. She is those type of people that when you’re in their presence you feel more cheerful, not because of their speech or anything about their outer exterior, but it is an unexplainable energy that I believe some people are gifted with.

We sat in the same vicinity along with other employees, but the Liberians are stationed more at the front to meet confused students. So traffic went to them first and trickled down to us when the issue involved technology. I worked next to Sara for nearly a year. And in this year, every single day she was consistent in her approach to people. A professor, a handsome young man that is well dressed, a pretty young woman that is sporting a purse that costs six months of rent, be white, black, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Christian, Skikh, pretty, not as handsome, or the many homeless visitors that came to the library to pass time by playing games all day long on the computer. Mean, rude or with a good personality. Didn’t matter. With everyone Sara treated the same. She awarded the same respect, the same attention, and the same service to everyone. She was pleasant, always had a warm smile and wonderful personality. One may think Sara was just doing her job and she has great customer service skills and I too thought that at first, but a consistency in action is not a job nor a service skill I concluded, rather it was telling of her inner nature. Verily very few are like Sara. And as my habit to tell people what I admire from them at the end before I left the job I told Sara that I liked the beauty of her character.

The Indian Doctor. In my program there are many professionals from various health fields. We write a lot of papers and give a lot of presentations. For those of us that have not earned a professional degree, we mainly put our names. No one puts a BS or BA after their name, because everyone has one of those in the program. The MDs and Phds however never forget to add those captions after their name. Except the Indian doctor, a man with over a decade of experience and an active physician at a leading hospital. He writes just his name on his presentations and papers. I was struck by this and as part of feedback for his presentation I wrote that I noticed the anomaly and quite liked it.


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