Last week, I traveled to see a friend in Maryland. We made it a girl’s trip and spent a lot of time shopping in the DC area. As both of us are always hunting a bargain, we decided to hit the outlets, only to find that their deals were not much better than a small department store sale. We asked a nearby vendor where the best deals were, and she pointed us toward the Kate Spade store.
I have to admit, this put a bit of a knot in my stomach. Kate Spade had recently taken her own life by means of hanging from a stylish red scarf. Yes, this woman, seen as the positive icon in women’s fashion, had left us, but her style lived on. As we meandered through the store, I found a pair of PJs in the clearance section. They said: “Look on the Bright Side.” I also saw displayed above the cash register these words: “She is quick and curious and playful and strong. She is a voracious reader and a fantastic dancer. She saves old snapshots but always loses her umbrella. Her e-mails pile up, but she never forgets to call her grandmother. She has $7 in change at the bottom of her purse.” All over the store were bright handbags, with charms, happy hearts, flowers and decorations.
I just had to take a picture of the sign above the register. I could not help but feel some cognitive dissonance in this situation, almost like I was being lied to. The positive colors and phrases were somehow dimmed over by the memory of a woman who could not find joy in the “little things” she glorified.
This entire experience confirmed for me the importance of the saying “Do not judge a book by its cover.” So often in life, especially with the effects of images brought to us by social media, we tend to view other’s lives as more glamorous and rich than they really are. Many people hide behind happy phrases and fancy filters, only to display a life of meaningless, sadness, and loss. How do we see beyond the shiny exterior? We do so by asking them how they are and really wanting to hear a response. This is harder than it sounds, as most of us tend to ask this question with no room left in our agenda than a simple “fine.” Maybe it is time we left extra room in our busy lives for really listening to the reality of someone’s day. We can never truly know the depth of someone’s struggle unless we take time to actively hear their story and ask questions. Do not judge based on appearances. They can be extremely deceiving.