Misleading First Impressions








Last week I attended the funeral of a little ninety-three-year-old Chinese woman, “Alice.” Long ago I had been introduced to her as the mother of a friend and sized her up as a sweet, gentle lady who probably spent most of her life in the kitchen making beef chop suey, wonton soup, and egg rolls.  Only now do I know what a powerhouse she was. I should have guessed it from her accomplished adult children.

Alice, a graduate of a leading university in Shanghai, was one of the first female journalists in China and interviewed prominent people. During the civil war there, she led more than twenty family members to safety. The homily at her funeral Mass and the masterful eulogy delivered by her son shed even more light on this remarkable woman, whose life touched thousands.

Apparently we humans are good at instantly drawing conclusions about other people. It’s said that if a stranger resembles someone we know and like, we immediately think favorably of them. Alas, the opposite must also be true. Our perceptions are colored by our biases, culture, and previous experiences.

The young receptionist at a hotel in Arizona had facial piercings and tattoos. “You sure we should stay here?” my sister nervously asked. Later, when I looked at the reviews for the hotel, I found that someone said that the weird-looking receptionist should be fired. Yet, the young lady couldn’t have been kinder: letting us use the Internet before we registered, finding someone to accompany us to our room, offering us cookies, and so on.

When I was a “junior” sister, I found one of the other sisters disagreeable. What’s more, I thought she didn’t like me either! Only when I got to know her, did I appreciate her uniqueness. Now she is one of my good friends.

Jesus was not immune to being judged rashly. When Nathanael heard the presumed Messiah was from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Most Romans saw only a Jew, not the Savior of the World, much less the Son of God. The religious leaders  saw only a troublemaker.

And what if Jesus went by first impressions of people? Height-challenged, silly Zacchaeus would not be known as St. Zacchaeus today. The crazy, violent man howling in the desert would not have become a follower of his. And the woman we would call a slut would not have been praised for loving much. Jesus saw the potential in people.

Every person has layers of history, achievements, disappointments, talents, and special gifts. To judge someone without delving into the richness of their being is not fair—to them or to us. The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is wise advice. On opening the book we may discover surprising things inside. The same holds true for a person.

What do you think people think of you when they first meet you?

Have you ever experienced totally misjudging someone?


BOOK REVIEW:  Cooking My Way to Heaven: My Convent Life & Notre Dame Recipes

Mary Ann Quinn  $20.00

If Catholic Sisters, particularly  the Sisters of Notre Dame, played a role in your life, you will especially enjoy this book. Perhaps you wondered what life behind convent walls was like. Mary Ann Quinn offers insights as she recounts her experiences as Sister Sean Maureen, a cook Sister in the Notre Dame Community.

Along with colorful stories of her escapades in various convents, she explains convent terms and customs. The wit and humor in these pages are like the icing on the cake.

After Quinn’s memoir, she serves up a collection of recipes. Most of them are straight from the kitchens of the Notre Dames, a community with German roots.

Cooking My Way to Heaven makes a delicious read for cooks and non-cooks alike.   

(I wrote this review for the back cover of the book, which I edited and designed.)



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