At a recent Toastmasters meeting, the raffle master produced a non-descript article, wrapped in brown paper. There was no indication of what it contained, and most people would have passed it by, or left it lying on the table.

But this young lady had other ideas. She picked up the brown paper parcel and held it

high, “Can you imagine what is in this parcel?” she asked. “Perhaps it’s a book that will transport you to foreign lands; or maybe there are soft scented candles that will soothe the stresses of the day. It could be a brand new garden fork, which will entice you out into the winter garden with the promise of spring to come”.

With each word our eyes lit up and we mentally began to wonder what secret the nondescript wrapping concealed. As a result the raffle that night took the largest amount of money we had achieved for some time. People were intrigued with the possibilities and looked beyond the unprepossessing outer layer. We had been sold the potential of the inside and not the unappealing outside.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that is dazzled by the outer layers, and often we fail to take the opportunity to examine what lies beneath them. We meet someone for the first time and they are nervous and difficult to talk with. Do we persevere, and try to discover the hidden depths below, or do we give up the struggle and move onto to easier conversationalists? In other words do we take the outer layer as being all that is available?

If we do, we can miss out on getting to know some very interesting people. One thing I have learned throughout my life is that the packaging is not all it is about. But one of the easiest ways to sell a product, regardless of its quality, is to concentrate on the packaging and down play what’s inside. Which is fine, if you really understand that the wrapping is not the thing itself, but merely fancy window dressing.

Children are the object of some cynical exercises in making the packaging more important than the product. They do not have the discrimination to differentiate between what a thing looks like and what a thing truly is. Consequently they can make inappropriate choices. But even we, as adults, can be beguiled into believing that a fancy package will ensure a superior product.

But it isn’t always the case. Often the product in a not-so-fancy package can be just as effective, just as practical and will probably be better value for money as you are not being charged for window dressing that will only have to be thrown away!

Our fascination for the outside wrapping can blind us to what is inside; if we take things on face value we loose the opportunity to be surprised or delighted. But it seems that it is becoming more and more our opinion that if it doesn’t look good it is obviously not valuable. What does that say about society’s attitudes?

Some of the very best things in my life were discovered “wrapped in brown paper!” I met my husband after a day spent out on a field exercise in the military – he was dressed in camouflage, hot and dusty, face paint smeared and sweaty (and, it must be said, definitely not exuding the ‘perfume of Arabia’!) I really couldn’t say that the outer package was attractively and enticingly arrayed. But I saw the bright smile, I noticed the sparkle in the eye and after I had got to know the real person I began to understand the worth of the product.

And, in fairness, I have to mention that I was not much better– and I have always been very grateful that he also took the time to discover the person lurking behind the uniform. Life could have been very different if we had made a judgement based merely on the “brown paper” wrapping!

But how often do we quickly judge things merely by their cover? How often do we make instant decisions about a thing’s worth merely on the packaging? How often are we fooled into making a purchase because we have been sold what’s on the outside, rather than what is on the inside?

I believe that we often miss out on great opportunities because they may appear to us as if wrapped in brown paper. If we pass judgement on what is hidden merely on the way it is packaged and pass on by; we can miss out on some wonderful, exciting and unique opportunities. Surely the lesson we need to learn is that what is inside is not to be judged by what is outside. If we take time to investigate even the most modest of exteriors we can be amazed by the realities carefully concealed.

So challenge yourself to take a second look at that brown paper parcel –and why not make this week’s mantra “Never judge a book by its cover.” You never know, you might be absolutely delighted with what’s inside.

Michele @ Trischel

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