A few months before getting my butt kicked in bowling by my lovely wife, I was deeply involved in pursuing my associate degree at the local community college here in Jacksonville. I had made friends with some of my professors including my two biology teachers Mr. Easley and Mr. Boyce. I spent time talking to Mr. Easley after class and we became good friends. He was a great biology teacher. He made the class fun. This friend of mine taught me a very valuable lesson in life. Let me paint you a picture of Mr. Easley and myself at the time as it relates to our physical appearance. Mr. Easley was an overweight man with a deep grumpy voice. He had what I called a “pot belly”. He also sported a black beard which I considered ragged looking. He was laid back in his approach to life. He was probably in his late forties. Physically speaking, he looked out of shape and a prime target for a heart attack. I on the other hand was looking good and in great shape for a twenty year old. I was slim and trim and was the picture of someone who was maintaining a healthy body. Mr. Easley and I were talking one day after class in his office. I said, "Mr. Easley, I think you need to start exercising." My intentions were good. I even offered to help him get in shape. I said, “I tell you what, I would enjoy the opportunity of playing you in a friendly tennis match to help jump start you on an exercise program.” I elaborated, “It will be fun.” Mr. Easley said in his deep grumpy voice, “I don’t play tennis.” I said, “I will show you how and it will be fun.” I was soon to find out that playing tennis with him was not fun, at least for me. After much persistent persuasion on my part, I was finally able to talk him into playing tennis with me.
The day finally arrived. This was the day that I was going to help Mr. Easley start his exercise program by playing him in a tennis match. Mr. Easley came to the event dressed in long baggy shorts with a tight tee shirt that revealed the huge bulge in his mid-section. He was dressed like a bum. On the other hand, I looked good. I was wearing my tight “daisy duke shorts” which was the style in the 1980’s. I didn’t even wear a shirt. I wanted to get some sun on my tight belly. I thought to myself that I might as well get a tan while having fun running this old man ragged. We started hitting the ball back and forth. I was surprised that he was able to get the ball across the net. As we were warming up, I thought to myself, “I am going to help my friend get in shape plus teach him a lesson.” In other words I was now going to take on the role of teacher and he would be my student in this tennis class. Life is good. We warmed up a few minutes and I said, “Are you ready?” He said, “yes.” I told him to serve first.
When he started serving, he transformed into a tennis machine. It was amazing what was taking place. To start with he put the tennis ball where I was not with precision accuracy and speed. On top of that, the fat man could move. He beat me like a “rented mule”. We played three sets. He crushed me 6-0, 6-0 and 6-1. I believe he let me win one game because he felt sorry for me. After the match I apparently hadn’t learned my lesson. I said, “Mr. Easley, obviously tennis is not my sport. I do play basketball. I would like to challenge you to a game of basketball in the near future.” When Mr. Easley said, “I don’t play basketball” I should have left him alone, but I didn’t. About two weeks later I was able to talk the old man into a friendly game of basketball. The idea was to get him in shape. NOT. The motivation for playing basketball with him was to get some of my pride and competitive spirit back which he destroyed on the tennis court.
We go out on the basketball court for a friendly game of one on one. The winner would be the first one to score thirty points. Each basket would count as one point. The good news is I won, but barely. The score was 30 to 29. The bad news was he just about physically killed me. This old fat man could jump and drive to the basket with muscle and speed. The only thing that saved me was my outside shot and maybe a little bit of luck. I was physically exhausted after the game and he didn’t even look winded.
A few days later I was visiting with Mr. Boyce. I said, “Mr. Boyce, Mr. Easley and I played a friendly tennis match and he destroyed me. My intentions were to get him started on an exercise program because he looks out of shape and I figured he needed to start exercising. A couple of weeks later we go out on the basketball court for a game of one on one. I barely won the game and he almost physically killed me. He could move with precision speed and plus he could jump and rebound. I thought that I was going to teach him a lesson. Man was I fooled. He taught me a valuable lesson which is don’t judge a book by its cover. Appearances can be misleading. Mr. Boyce started laughing, “Randy, he set you up. He went to college on a tennis scholarship and on top of that he was the point guard on his high school basketball team. If he had been in shape, he would have really destroyed you.”
Social Lesson learned in judging others.
The lesson learned is don’t judge others. We make a lot of assumptions about people every day by their physical appearance. Looks can be deceiving. I prejudged Mr. Easley because he didn’t look to me to be in shape. Our intentions might be good in wanting to help a friend become healthier and make some lifestyle changes. I wanted that for Mr. Easley. My approach was wrong. My arrogant approach came across to him that I thought I was in better shape and that he didn’t measure up. The lesson he taught me was priceless. To start with, I should have been praying about a strategy to approach him in a way that wouldn’t come across as a cocky young twenty year old who thought that I could beat him in a game in order to make him see that he needed to make some lifestyle changes to become healthier. Look how foolishly I started my conversation with him about his health. I told him, “Mr. Easley, I think that you need to start exercising.” The way I said it could be offensive to some people. He got the message that I was telling him that he looked out of shape. He could have thought as I started asking him about playing tennis that he would take me up on the challenge to kick my butt and teach me a lesson about minding my own business. He also didn’t brag to me about earning a tennis scholarship and being the captain on his high school basketball team. He had a humble approach in his answer. Humility is a great trait when we are trying to build relationships with other people. His answer to me was that he didn’t play tennis or basketball. That could have been true. Maybe he hadn’t played in years. He never lost or bragged on his skills. Looking back, maybe I could have started off the conversation by telling him about how my dad speed walks two miles every day and he is always full of energy and drive. I decided to try to follow my dad’s example and I have noticed that I have a lot more energy in my life. If I had started off the conversation like that it’s possible, he might have chimed in and said, “you know I have been thinking that I need to start exercising. I could stand to lose a few pounds.” I could have been humbler in my approach. In this particular case, I don’t believe that I offended him because we were friends. I believe that he was thinking in his mind that he was going to help me by teaching a young man a very valuable lesson in life on how to be successful socially by pointing out to me my short comings in my approach of trying to help a friend. By the way, I never asked him to play tennis or basketball again. I learned my lesson.