My confession, like many things about me, begins with a story. Once upon a time, back when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and very naive, I used to help my mother buy groceries once a month. Every month, my parents would portion out my Dad’s carefully earned paycheck and my mother would make a long list. Then Mom would grab one of us kids and buy three grocery cartloads full of food at the Albertson’s supermarket down the street. I need to stress, here, that we did this every month. All the cashiers knew my mother by sight. She would smile and watch as the cashier worked quickly through the loads of food that I was hastily emptying from the carts. Then the cashier would put it all into paper bags or, in some cases, cardboard boxes, and return it carefully to the carts again so that we could take it all out and pack it into the car. When we got home, we would unload it all and put it into the basement, where all our foodstorage was.
I never told my mother this, but, while we shopped, I noticed the fat lady buying snacks, or the mother ignoring her crying child. I noticed the person dressed all sloppy or any of half a hundred other people. All of these people I made some sort of decision about just based on what I could see. I didn’t just do this at the grocery store. I did it everywhere. I still catch myself doing it.
My mother tried to teach me to try to understand people. She always said that, when people do things you don’t understand, rather than just assume they are mean, you can try to figure out why they behaved the way that they did. You can, in effect, tell yourself a story about them.
Well, now I am the fat woman at the grocery store buying snacks. I am the woman with the difficult child. I am the one wearing the sloppy clothing. I am many of the people that I judged all those years ago and I understand why all those people were doing what they were doing at the time. Each face I had judged when I was young wasn’t just the one note or one color I had decided they were. Each face had a story that I was ignoring, not because I was smart. Because I was ignorant and blind.
I’m not the only person who’s been afflicted with this horrible ignorance and blindness. Sometimes, if allowed to take root, it can become prejudice, which, though rooted in ignorance, can be cured by learning the truth. Sometimes, you learn the way I did, by experience. Other times, you can learn by talking with a person, learning the story behind the face that you’ve painted so long with untrue colors.
Then again, you can do what I’ve learned to do. You can make up your own story. It may not be the true story, but at least you’re not just painting that person with a single brush stroke. You are building an entire canvas on that one person. There’s even a hobby that this practice goes along with. It’s called people watching. Sometimes, you could take a picture of the person you’re telling the story about.
I’ve decided to try people watching for a while. So, every so often, on Cimmy’s Stories, I’ll show you a picture of someone I’ve seen, but never talked with. Included with this picture will be a story that I think explains their physical appearance. Then you can do the same, if you wish.
Question Time: Have you ever caught yourself judging a person based on how they look? Did that bother you in any way before you read this post? If so, what did you decide to do about it? If not, why not? I want to read YOUR story.