A long time ago I realized that when people first look at Penny, they don't see her. They see Down syndrome. I do the same thing. When I see someone in a wheelchair, I struggle to pay attention to the individual in front of me. The disability makes it hard for me to see the person. But when my sight changes, what a gift.
It happens with other people too–when I see my sister Kate according to my experience with her as a child instead of who she is as a grown woman; when I allow status symbols (or lack thereof) to determine how I treat someone; when I judge a person based upon the college they attended.
Louise Kinross recently posted an essay on her blog about her son Ben, who was born with a rare genetic syndrome. Her essay discusses how she has seen Ben through the years: "In Each Other's Eyes, We Are Enough." Does she see him as a boy with "dysmorhpic" features, or does she see him as her beautiful baby son? Do I see Penny as a child with epicanthal folds in her eyes or as my daughter, who sometimes looks remarkably like me (see above)? What do I see when I look at other people? Do I see them as a full human being, capable of giving and receiving, worthy of my respect and attention?
What influences the way you see people? What would help you see through the generalizations to the person?