I believe less judgment toward each other will make us all more accepting

We are all going to die one day. It is a fact. We all are on our own paths, but our paths will eventually come to a literal dead end. This fact alone should cause everyone to get along better in the valley, state, country and world.

Here are some ideas to muddle around in our collective brains to promote congeniality in our community:

Be less judgmental and more accepting. It is easy to judge others, but how often are we wrong when we make snap judgments? I know people who are racists. They generalize about specific groups, whether an ethnic group or age group, in negative ways. They think all minorities are dangerous and harmful to the country. This kind of thinking is not healthy as our country is stronger because we have a diversity of people from all walks of life.

I am a member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the Cal State campus in Palm Desert. The program is for adults 50+ who want to take college-level classes. The wonderful part of the program is that there are no tests or homework assignments.

Going to school with seniors is an eye opener. I have never met so many amazing people in my life. These seniors come from all walks of life and have been successful in the film business, financial world, travel industry, education and every career imaginable. Again, making judgments about older people is pointless. They all have unbelievable stories to share.

These seniors will really surprise you. One of our instructors (Cash Baxter) told the story about running into Bert Lahr the cowardly lion from “The Wizard of Oz.” He approached him on a street in New York City. Baxter proceeded to tell Lahr how wonderful he was as an actor and thanked him for all the years of wonderful entertainment he had given the public. With tears running down his cheeks, Lahr put both his hands on Baxter’s shoulders and said, “I am an old man. You have no idea how much your warm words mean to me. Thank you so much.” Bert Lahr died a few weeks later. This is an example of the types of touching stories you hear from all the wonderful seniors at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Palm Desert.

Let’s talk about judging people on their looks. We live in a youth culture where everyone is supposed to have a perfectly sculpted body. Just because a man is handsome, or a woman is beautiful does not mean they are a wonderful person. I remember getting a massage once. I told the masseur I needed to lose some weight. He replied, “Ray, I massage man who is over 350 pounds. He is the kindest and most loving man I have ever met. I hate to end his massage. On the other hand, I have a young man in his 20s with the perfect body, but his attitude is so arrogant, I can barely wait to finish his massage.” I thought his remarks were right on. The most important component of any body is having a loving heart.

I often think of the infamous Susan Boyle video from “America’s Got Talent.” She came out and the entire audience thought she was a joke. After singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Misérables, the audience went wild with unbridled love and enthusiasm for her voice. No, Boyle was not a beauty queen, but boy she had talent.

People can be quite judgmental about having a college degree. Yes, college is great for some people, but for many others careers it is not needed. Electricians, plumbers and mechanics are just three of many careers who don’t need a college degree. Don’t make assumptions about thinking college educated people are more intelligent.

My two brothers have been so successful in business and neither of them went to college. They are smart and have great common sense. My friend, Mary Barbara, worked as a medical secretary for years. She never went to college but was one of the smartest people I have ever met. She lived to be 102 and she was an inspiration to everyone who knew her.

The purpose of this column is to step back and think a minute before making negative assumptions about a person or group of people. Yes, we are all different, but I have found that if you start to engage yourself in conversation with a stranger or new person, you will most likely find that they are pleasant and have something in common with you.

Perhaps this quote says it best, “My mind is like a parachute…it functions only when open.” Unknown.

Ray Matlock Smythe is an author/retired teacher. His two newest books are “Coping with Grief – My Personal Journey of Learning to Overcome Sorrow” and “Creating a More Positive Life, One Column at a Time.” He lives in Cathedral City and can be reached at Rayme49@aol.com

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: I look for similarities, not differences, in people I meet