Beyond appearances – a lesson from a song in a New York subway

The cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover” is well known and is on the money.   Looking  beyond appearances in life is a constant issue for most of us.  And this lesson from a song in a New York subway will help to redress  assumptions powerfully.

But all too often we forget the message and make assumptions about people based on their appearance, age, gender, clothing and job.

Assumptions can be damn unreliable causing us to miss out on so many opportunities and relationships. 

What looks like gold on the surface may turn out to be nothing more than tin. 

And what looks like tin may hide a huge pot of gold.

Reginald Guitaro Guillaume, a musician and singer in New York and will know this conundrum intimately first hand. Setting up random music sessions for free in public places, he invites and encourages men and women who walk by to join him to sing a song. 

His purpose is simply to spread joy and encouragement to people to step out and sing for self empowerment and fun.  A pretty damn fine idea I reckon.

In 2022 he set up his session and equipment in a New York subway.  Reggie sure looks the part of a creative funky musician. Hmm, see I was judging his looks then too.  

Then a conservative looking male worker (Greg) in a stiff shirt and tie approached him on his morning work commute. 

He looked tentative and unconfident, someone who might work in IT or some another other “nerdy” role. (yes again a silly judgement)

But bloody WOW, then he sang – hold your hats in this video :

His voice was powerful, his passion palpable. It was a real surprise to hear such an incredible voice from such an unassuming person who was not a professional singer and yet had talent in every bone.

The song he belted out was-  ‘I’m a Creep’ by UK rock band Radiohead.  The original song released in 1993 is all all time personal favourite and is stirring at any time.

But in this situation, serendipity and poignancy reigned supreme. And I would even go as far as say it was equal, if not better than the original

This video moved me deeply. It made me think about how often we make assumptions about people based on their appearance and work. 

Hey the guy could well have been in a nerdy or IT role. But that is NOT his full self. Its just a part of his life and not a full representation of his talents, desires and skills.

There is so much potential hidden in hobbies and heart passions and interests that can be woven into other parts of our lives.

We assume that because someone dresses a certain way or looks a certain way, we know everything there is to know about them. But we couldn’t be more wrong.

How often do we misjudge someone and never take the time to get to know them? How often do we hide our passions and hobbies out of fear of being judged?

The truth is, we all have hidden depths and talents that might surprise those around us. We are all more than what meets the eye.

I for one get this as I often hear “I would never have thought that about you Sue’. WOW didn’t know you loved doing that sort of thing’. People are so multi dimensional and we have many sides of our selves. 

Here was someone who, based on his appearance, might not have seemed like he belonged in session belting out a song with rock star gravitas.

Yet, he had a voice that moved mountains. He sang a song that was haunting and raw, and it was clear that he had a very unique and special gift. 

So, what can we learn from this encounter? First and foremost, we need to stop making assumptions about people based on their appearance.

We need to give people a chance and see beyond their exterior. We need to recognize that there is more to a person than what we can see on the surface.

Secondly, we need to seize opportunities when they arise. When we see someone doing something unexpected or unusual, we should be curious and open-minded.

We should be willing to take a chance and see where it leads us.

Appearances can be such a bloody trap and we need to sharpen our curious minds and open judgements We must be willing to see beyond the exterior and discover the hidden depths of those around us.

Being really curious about people is the way forward. There is a reason you should ask people about their hobbies and what they love to do OUTSIDE of work. What lights their fire in their personal time? 

What are those passions they would love to bring further out in the world? 

We must be open to new experiences and opportunities, even if they seem unusual or unexpected. In doing so, we might just discover something truly remarkable, something that will change our lives forever.

My questions after watching the video many times are ”what am I doing here, and where do I belong (for talents and passion)”.

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