It is often said, first impressions can make the difference between success and failure. Or it’s all about how you first come across that determines the outcome. Do you believe that? Well, yesterday I met a Virginia rancher who will challenge your thinking…
A story about our first impressions…
My wife and I were on vacation walking down a country road in the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. We noticed a baby calf lying down in the corner of a field by the side of the road. We walked up to the calf and it didn’t move. No other cows were around and our first impression was the calf was either sick or dying. It was breathing hard and all alone. Even when we petted the calf, it only looked at us but didn’t move. Thinking something was wrong, we walked back to the place where we were staying and told them about the calf. He said he would call the rancher who was in charge of the area and let him know.
After about an hour, we decided to walk back to see if the calf had been cared for. To our surprise, it was still there and hadn’t moved. By now the baby calf was in the hot sun and breathing even harder. Didn’t anyone care if this calf died?
Then off in the distance, I heard a voice yell, “Hey, what are you doing?”. The man who yelled jumped in his truck and started driving across the pasture. Our first thought was… Great! Now someone will help this calf. But it became quickly apparent this man was an upset rancher based on how fast he was driving. He pulled up and urgently told us to back away from the calf and that it was only two days old. He went on to lecture us that if the mother had seen us by her calf, she could have charged and possibly killed us.
… and how they got us into trouble…
He informed us that this calf was not sick but simply staying put until the mother decided to return. This was evidently normal behavior and we were getting in the way.
The rancher’s first impression was that we were careless visitors trying to pet a calf and didn’t respect his cattle or the ranch. Of course, our first impression was the calf was dying and we wanted to save its life. Needless to say, both of us had misjudged the situation based on first impressions. To make a long story short, we ended up talking with this rancher for at least two hours by the side of the road. What began as somewhat of a hostile encounter, ended up becoming a fun filled conversation with lots of laughter. By the end of our time together, this rancher offered us a Virginia steak dinner compliments of his labor.
That day on a country road in the farmlands of Virginia, I learned an important lesson about first impressions. Things aren’t always as they seem and the more you are willing to patiently listen and learn, the more you will discover the true value of the people you encounter. Jesus reminds us of this truth in John 7:24,“ Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” So be careful about how you respond to first impressions!
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