Betty Stone: A little bit of learning


Betty Stone



Since my last column I have had a birthday. It wasn''t one of the big ones; I''ll probably have to have someone come to hold my hand for that. Nevertheless, it was big enough to make me reflect on what I''ve learned in these many years -- or, if I have managed to learn anything. 


I think I have. One, you can like most people if you get to know them. I did not always feel that way. Many times a person''s looks, mannerisms, politics, dress or reputation (good or bad) turned me away from the very start. 


The most important example of that turned out to be my husband. Before we met, our common friends, the Caffey''s (Ruth was my good friend; her brother, Shed, was Doug''s) had talked about him so much and had had so many good things to say about him, I was sick and tired of hearing it. I was not interested in meeting him, was sure I wouldn''t like such a paragon at all. He was oversold. That aversion lasted until we met. It took less than 15 minutes for me to change my mind, and the rest is history -- our own history, at any rate. 


That same experience has happened to me so often, with friends, co-workers, professors and others, that now I consider a mild antipathy a good reason to try to know that person better. 




Judge not  


I have learned to rejoice that I don''t have to judge others. In fact, my religion forbids it. Yet we walk a thin line, for society must judge enough to establish laws. Otherwise we would have anarchy.  


Individuals, too, must have good judgment in order to avoid catastrophe, and, no matter how attractive a person may be, to avoid emulating someone whose behavior can lead to disaster. Today''s society tends to make that difficult, especially if one is concerned about influences on our children. It''s a sticky problem, isn''t it? Come to think of it, I''m still struggling with that one. 




Appearances can be deceiving 


I have learned that things are not always what they seem. I learned that early, when I was still in school and had a summer job at a credit bureau. I found out that some of the people who lived the flashiest lifestyles were in debt up to their eyebrows. Sometimes the wearer of the sleekest new fur coat was cheating the merchant, who had charged it, out of its price. Conspicuous consumption does not always indicate either character or wealth. 


Along the same lines I learned that money cannot guarantee happiness, but the lack of it can surely cause misery. 


One of the hardest things for me to learn is the foolishness of rejecting the happiness available to us just because everything is not right. Everything is never going to be right. There is no way to escape the problems of life, so we might as well embrace the pleasures, too. That also goes for us as individuals: Finally realizing that I am not going to be everything I would like to be gives me the freedom to enjoy what I am. 




Life lessons 


I have learned that often the things you fear the most don''t happen, but sometimes they do. When they do, you usually manage to survive. 


I have learned the value of family and friends with all their quirks and eccentricities. I have a few of those traits, too, and I would live in a gray world without the color they impart. 


I no longer feel I have to like what everyone else likes, to know what everyone else thinks and think it. I have learned to enjoy my own tastes, whether in style or not, especially with the sense of taste itself. I do not like anchovies, never have, probably never will. So what? I also suspect no one else in the world likes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a sour pickle sliced in it. I make no apologies for that. 


As time goes by, most of us learn to adjust to the circumstances of our lives, make peace with them, even enjoy them. We might as well. 


There''s a jungle out there with all the monsters of the things I have not learned: the intricacies of my computer, how not to worry about my children (no matter how old), how to carry a tune, the multiplication table, and all the big, philosophical, unanswerable questions. The list goes on ad infinitum. As long as there is life, there is hope, they say; so maybe before my next birthday, I''ll learn a little more. 


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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