Looking at the inside — of books and people

By: Azalea R. Bolton - Storyteller

I recently saw an episode of “The Waltons.” Grandma had suffered a stroke and was unable to speak and tell people what she was thinking. She tried to answer the phone when no one else was around and couldn’t even say “Hello.” She got so frustrated because she was unable to communicate that she started writing her thoughts down in a journal.

Seeing this scenario being acted out on TV got me started thinking about how true that is in our lives as we come into contact with people each and every day. We see how they appear on the outside, but we don’t really know what’s going on in the inside. They could be facing a life-threatening disease, financial difficulties, marriage problems, and the list goes on and on. We can ask people how they are doing but still might not find out what’s really going on in their lives.

Isn’t that how it is with most of us? If people ask us how we’re doing, we usually say: “Fine. How are you?” I know I tell people that all the time when they ask me how I’m doing. I know deep down they don’t really want to hear my problems — and if I started complaining, they would make sure they never asked me again. I hope, however, that I’m a good enough listener so that people feel like they can tell me their problems and know that I care. I think that’s the biggest question when we interact with people. Do we act like we really care?

It’s true, too, that we should never judge anyone by how they look on the outside. I’ve met people whose looks were almost perfect but inside they were rotten to the core. Then, I’ve met others who looked far from perfect but inside they had a heart that was pure gold. Which way would you prefer that people remember you? Even people who have physical beauty are not always gonna have those good looks. I’ve seen pictures recently of movie stars who died this past year and, no matter how good they looked when they were young, those pictures taken when they are older show that they were no longer beautiful or handsome as before.

I love to read books and I can often be found at the library looking for one that I haven’t read before. Just like everyone else who is looking for a good book, the first thing I do is turn it over and read the back or the inside cover where it tells you what the book is supposed to be about. That little preview of the book either sparks my interest to check that book out so I can read it, or it causes me to decide I don’t want to read that one at all. Those little previews don’t tell you everything, however, and sometimes when I start reading it, I find out that preview fooled me completely. I guess that old saying is true, then: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” I suppose that’s one reason, too, why it’s important what kind of picture is put on the front of the book. It either catches your eye or it doesn’t.

Over the years, I’ve found the type of fiction that I like to read. I have certain authors whom I love and keep my eyes open for their latest books. However, if I reach the point where I try a book by an unknown author and I don’t like their work, I don’t want to read anything else they’ve written. If an author is good enough, though, I might go back and re-read their books again. If I do that, however, it seems I always see something there that I didn’t see the first time I read it.

The one book that I especially see something new in every single time I read it is the Bible. Even when I read the story of the birth of Christ back in December, it seems like I picked up on things I had never really seen there before. I suppose that is why we need to read the same passages over and over again — so we can try and comprehend all of the lessons there that God has in store for us.

Right before Christmas, I went into The Christian Bookstore to choose a new study Bible for myself. The staff members there were very helpful about helping me choose exactly what I wanted. I hadn’t really even thought about what color I wanted it to be on the outside until they showed me what colors were available. I could have chosen one that was pink and tan on the outside, but I decided that was not for me. I ended up choosing just plain old black. That plain old black Bible, though, is another good example of not being able to judge a book by its cover. The knowledge found within that book cannot be equaled by any other book that has ever been written. The stories found there are as exciting as any novel that you would want to read. The heroes there are sometimes almost bigger than life, but are also just as flawed as we are today.

During this coming year, I’m going to try and be better about not judging a book by its cover and not judging others by how they look or how they’re dressed. What about you?

Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, and member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies.

Azalea R. Bolton

Storyteller