No matter where Louie and I walk, people stop to talk to him. He is very friendly and loves to engage with people. “What is he?” is the question I’m asked when Louie meets new friends. I give the same answer: “I think he’s a Corgi/Beagle mix. And perhaps a little bit of Basset Hound, given his deep bark. He’s a rescue so I’m not totally sure.”
They will usually step back and take a long look at my pup. They smile and say, “I can definitely see the Beagle and perhaps the Corgi as well because of his little legs and long body.”
Some people will even share their Corgi or Beagle stories because of the characteristic of each breed. As soon as I say Louie is a Corgi, people will say he must be stubborn. Or when I say that he’s a Beagle, they will ask if he howls. This amazes me and causes me to ponder his “true” identity.
So I experimented. When people asked, “What is he?” I responded, “He’s the best little buddy ever. He’s really well behaved and very loving!”
People look at me as though I didn’t hear what they asked. So they clarify their question, “I mean what breed is he?” I understand the desire to discuss breeds but this tendency has made me aware of how we often do the same thing to people.
When people see me, I wonder how I am identified? Some easily identify me as a woman of Mediterranean descent; some will see me as a bit older thanks to the white streak in my hair, and some may classify me as middle class, based upon what I may be wearing. Some people take it further and associate me with a political party based on what I look like or what area of town I live in or what church I attend. Some folks today are simply identified by the company they keep. As I think about it, I’m not sure I want to be identified by any of those things. While I am proud of my heritage and love being a woman, are those the only ways I want to be identified?
This has also made me think about how I look at others. Do I assess the color of their skin or how they dress or what car they drive? Or do I allow others to influence my impression simply based on gossip. Do I identify them by how they treat others, if their words match their actions, if they walk with integrity, and if they are honest, loving, and joyful people?
The words of Martin Luther King, Jr., are still powerful today: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” One would assume that by the year 2015, we would assess people on the content of their characters and not only by what we observe. Just look around at what’s going on in our society, and it’s clear that is not the case.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Our world is desperate for people who act with integrity. But acting with integrity is intentional, and it springs forth from inner character. Unfortunately, what we get is the shadow of a person, not the real thing. We are influenced by our families of origin, our peers, our colleagues, and even by or origin, by our peers, by the people we associate with, and even by the media.
I am doing a study on the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control with a group of wonderful businesswomen. I have no doubt that by the end of our study we will have grown tremendously, and I hope people will know us by the content of our character. I believe this verse says it all: “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.*”
My prayer is that people see my heart based on my character.
As for Louie, he matures more every day. He brings so much joy to others that to identify him only with his breed seems to sell him short and put him in a box. He is more real and honest and true than most people. Our world could learn a thing or two about character from a dog name Lou!
*1 Samuel 16:7