The other day I came across an article from a church magazine that I've kept since 1993. Although I wasn't conscious of being goth at the time, I kept it because it was such a great example of the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Now I'd like to share it with you, because it's a feel-good story, AND it's about us! The teenagers described and pictured in the article are definitely goths/punks. :-)
The following true story, titled "More Than Eye Can See", was written by Angela B. Haight, and was published in the "Mormon Journal" section of The Ensign magazine (September 1993 issue)*. I've removed a few non-essential sentences from the the places marked with "..." for brevity, but both the majority and the message of the story are intact:
"Without realizing it, I had fallen into the habit of categorinzing people by the way they reacted to my aging mother. In spite of her infirmities, at age eighty-seven Mother still acts and speaks with gentle dignity, and I am always grateful for the people who speak directly to her, hold the door for her, and don't pull away if she touches them.
"When we've been out together, I've occasionally had to suppress my annoyance at slights from strangers... Perhaps no event has been as vivid, though, as a recent encounter in the shopping mall where we like to walk.
"Though my mother can't do many of the things she once enjoyed, she still loves to go out. One of her favorite diversions is window shopping, and the shopping mall is a light, cheerful place where the temperature is always pleasant, and the floor surfaces are smooth and easy to walk on, even for her shuffling, arthritic feet. Best of all, the mall has wooden benches at intervals along the way, so we can stop and rest whenever Mother gets tired...
"One afternoon we ventured into a department store at the mall to make a small purchase. By the time we completed our errand, Mother was leaning heavily on my arm, obviously tired and ready to sit down. We walked slowly out of the store, and I noticed a bench directly ahead of us. Unfortunately, a group of eccentric teenagers lolled around it. Through the thick haze of their cigarette smoke, I noticed their jelled hair -- spiked and cut strangely, in unnatural colors -- their garish earrings, and dark-colored clothing. The noise of their raucous laughter and coarse language told me there was no way we would stop there.
"Just then several of the kids jumped up and approached us. Oh, no, what do they want? I wondered. Were we about to encounter more than simple rudeness -- perhaps an incident of teasing or confrontation? My body stiffened with a tremor of fear.
"Sit here, we'll go someplace else," said one of the girls. "Yeah, it's okay, you can use this bench," added a boy whose jeans hung down his legs in a fringe of threads. In a few seconds, they swept up their backpacks, drinks, and candy wrappers and disappeared, leaving only the pungent scent of their tobacco lingering in the air.
"Grateful but a bit shocked, I settled Mother on the bench and sat down beside her. As I glanced after the darkly clad little band disappearing down the corridor, I found a fragment of scripture passing through my mind: "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
"How many other times had I allowed my oversensitive feelings trap me in a destructive habit of judging others? The teenagers I so quickly labeled had seen a need and had understood, had shown kindness and compassion. Underneath the unsavory outward appearance, there was a heart I never would have suspected. But then I was so busy judging that I hadn't even looked."
Even though I don't know her, I'm proud of the way this lady stood up and spoke in defense of those who are different from the mainstream and from what she herself felt was acceptable. By publicly acknowledging her own prejudice and error in judgment, she opened a door to understanding and tolerance between two groups that many would simply assume could not ever work together.
As I've grown older, I've noticed my own prejudices have grown somewhat; I don't know why, but they have. Possibly it's because the world is indeed a scarier place now than it was in the 1970s, 80s, and even 90s. I'm worried about more things than I used to be, and I find myself assuming the worst in many situations that would not have bothered me in earlier years. But I fight my prejudices when I see them, and I hope I'll always be enough aware of them to do so. "Judge not, that ye be not judged" is a good rule to live by for everyone, no matter what you do or don't believe.
*This article is available to all on the Internet at http://www.lds.org/ensign, so I am not infringing on any copyright rules by printing it here.