It was time to get some new gym gear. My old, baggy Stripe t-shirt that I was gifted when I visited San Francisco in 2016 was making me feel uninspired to go to the gym.
I headed into the busy city of Melbourne and found myself in a department store looking at Nike t-shirts. After trying on a few, I felt like I too could be Usain Bolt and walked over to the Nike guy to pay with a huge smile.
These t-shirts were going to make a difference to my workout, weren’t they? Who knows. The Nike guy was busy and called over his colleague Connor.
The man was in his late 60’s, hunched over, limping and had barely any hair left. When you think of Nike and high-intensity training, he’s perhaps not the first person you’d think of.
(That thought right there was my sense of judgment kicking in.)
We walked over together to the empty cash register to begin the checkout process. As an impatient millennial who does everything with his phone and sometimes thinks he knows a little too much having worked in payments/eCommerce, the experience was forecaster in my mind to last no more than ninety seconds.
Connor had other ideas.
He asked me, “Are these t-shirts for running are they?”
His curiosity was infectious and I felt compelled to stop looking at the screen of my phone and answer him.
“Yes, the t-shirts are for the gym and partly for running too.”
He started asking me lots of questions about running, which I wasn’t really able to answer been the amateur I was. The more we got into the conversation about running, hints of the real Connor came out.
“I’m a marathon runner in my spare time and my son just ran the Hawaiian Triathlon.”
It turned out that Connor had been running for decades and was one of the fittest men I’d probably ever met. He explained to me the reason for his limp and bad back, which was the result of an injury he had sustained after an accident in a marathon last year.
His stories were engaging and I found myself not wanting to leave and even being inspired in the process.
We kept talking and none of the t-shirts seemed to get scanned or paid for. I quickly glanced over at the young Nike salesperson who introduced us originally and he gave me a look like “Bet you weren’t expecting that. Thank me later.”
When Connor and I were done exchanging stories, I looked at the time and realized that more than thirty minutes had passed. My usual checkout time in these situations was ninety seconds — not this time.
Connor is someone I consider to be an extraordinary human being. What he has endured, his willingness to inspire, the wisdom he shares and his sheer mental toughness and his physical fitness, is incredible.
People like Connor are walking around every day; they are in the supermarket, at the petrol station, in the call center, at the post office and walking past you in the street while you may be looking down at your phone.
And then what results from this realization is even deeper: if we can stop judging others so quickly, we can meet these extraordinary people every single day. So don’t judge others, because you might not know who can be of help to you.
The extraordinary people who could change your life may be forcefully repelled from your world because of your unconscious need to judge others.
Don’t judge strangers so quickly and you’ll meet extraordinary people every day.