Last night, I had a minor epiphany. I went to a local business establishment and ended up talking with the employee at the check-out counter for about 5 minutes. When I had gone to this place before, I remember noticing this guy and kind of laughing to myself. He looked like something out of the early 80's, in terms of what he wore and how his hair was styled. I even remember laughing with my Father-in-law about this same guy as we left this place a few weeks ago.
It's funny, but I realized that stereotypes are the language of an outsider. True, there are reasons for stereotypes. Mainly, that they contain some degree of truth about their subject. But, they paint in broad strokes and are a vague impression of said subject. By no means do they take into account the individual.
As I was driving home, I thought about how nice this guy was. I thought about our discussions involving having children and being a Dad. I thought about how he's working 2 jobs to make ends meet. I also appreciated how truly inquisitive he was about my job and my life after graduating from UGA, among other things. We actually had some similarities.
I saw him in a new light because I had begun to get to know him. It was a simple thing, but profound. I think if we all knew people better, it would go a long way toward increasing our understanding and empathy. Of course, you can't know everyone on that level. Simply being aware that there's "more than meets the eye" is a powerful reminder that everyone's life is a novel - full of detail and unique experiences. That being said, we're all more similar than we imagine.