What you see is what you get is for all too many of us the way we view those who cross our path in life. Once we feel that we have sized up a person thoroughly enough to hit his bottom line we then tend to extrapolate out from there to what will be with him down the road. And this is especially true as concerns parents, teachers, and those dealing with people with issues, such as mental health professionals, social workers and the like.
If someone is established as an ois varf today that’s the lens through which we will look at him tomorrow.
And if he does Teshuva and gets his act together?
It’s possible that we could be looking right at him and all we’ll see is the ois varf because we’re invested in the negative image we have created for his future.
Or we could even see nothing.
Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein tells us of the principal who threw a 10th grade Bais Yaakov girl out of school. Years later he ran into her wearing a shaitel in one of the local stores and didn’t recognize her. When she introduced herself he said: “I can’t believe it’s you.”
Of course he couldn’t. He expected her to end up as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant if that much. That he would find her wearing a shaitel at a kosher meat market wasn’t on his screen.
Here’s a girl. Her top can be charitably described as having a low neckline and ditto in reverse for the hemline when there happens to be one.
She sports the number of piercings that is de rigueur in her social circle and keeps them on public display until 1:00 A.M. on weekdays and 4:00 A.M. plus on Shabbos Night and Motzoi Shabbos.
In addition to smoking she also drinks more than her brothers and is not one to say no when pot and cocaine are proffered at the numerous parties she attends.
She also hangs out with a large group of boys, mascot like, and she is very egalitarian.
So when one looks at such a girl what does one see? A life on the street perhaps? An abusive marriage somewhere down the road that will be a poster child for a dysfunctional family? That’s pretty much what that principal saw.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Rabbi Wallerstein says that if you’re Ronnie Greenwald you don’t see a kid at risk or one already lost. Instead of using the present as a template for the future, he flips it around and uses a goal oriented future as a template for the present.
He sees a young woman lighting the Shabbos candles with her children standing around her.
This is the image before his eyes and he then does everything in his power and then some to get her to that point.