There are two old sayings that I have found to be absolutely true: “Never judge a book by its cover” and “There’s more than meets the eye.”
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In the course of the almost 10 years I have been a reporter, I have interviewed thousands of people in El Dorado County for a wide variety of reasons and I have found that what is apparent to the eye is not only wrong, it isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.
To some people, El Dorado County, a mostly rural county with a huge geographical spread and a relatively small population, appears to be redneck country — a place where people live in trailer parks, eat Cheese-Whiz and some of their children might also be their grandchildren. Visitors from metropolitan areas expect to hear “Dueling Banjos” when they see all the trees. But I have talked to world-class inventors, industry rock stars, celebrities, spies and CIA agents, many, many heroes, world record holders, humanitarians of the highest order and people with unique and wonderful talents and abilities. Some of them might look scruffy or too odd to count, but their contributions to the world have been major … and they live right here, mostly because they have chosen to do so.
That there is more than meets the eye is always true. Always. It’s so tempting to choose sides when you hear about a scumbag who allegedly murdered his wife or when local government spends money in inexplicable ways. Common sense suggests that money is money and spending it on something we need is way better than spending it on something we don’t see a need for; common sense suggests that if a person is cheating on their spouse and the spouse ends up dead, the cheater must have had something to do with it. There is always more to the story than is reported because it takes time and patience as well as knowledgeable and trustworthy sources to unravel it. There is always more to a person than what you see, both good and bad. The cheater may have, indeed, bumped off the spouse; local government may have blown a wad of taxpayer dollars — but then, again, maybe not.
We usually aren’t privy to all the information and yet we rush to judgment anyway, not taking the time to find out more about the circumstances or the people than the surface information presented to us. People renovating a downtown building are venerated for their contribution while the City Council is attacked, accused of being obstructive. If you know more of the circumstances, neither of those two reactions is justified. A scurvy-looking man who smells of cat pee and appears to be non-functioning is regarded as a loser, but his record in U.S. Military Intelligence operations tells another story.
Everybody has a story — although some stories may make you want to clap your hands over your ears, some make you cry and others cause you rush the children out of the room. Every situation has more than two facets, especially when money and government are involved — that is why the players are so tied in knots trying to resolve the issues.
If “ordinary” is commonplace or standard, then I’ve come to believe that there are no ordinary people — either that or what is commonplace is that everyone, no matter how average in appearance and lifestyle, has extraordinary moments. We all have stories and there is more to each of us than what the world sees on the surface.
Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.