I owe a lot of people some serious apologies.
I’m getting to an age where I need to own up to some stuff and let it go. I am not saying anything here to absolve myself, I don’t want a pat on the back for admitting anything here. I just know we all go through life meeting all sorts of people in different situations, from very different backgrounds and we all have different baggage we carry around. There are surely going to be times when we don’t identify with everyone we encounter… and sometimes we judge. Ok, many times I judge. I am a terrible Judgypants.
I am the last person who should be sizing anyone up, so here I am telling you all I’m sorry.
Where do I begin?
To the mentally challenged boy I saw at the pool – who was bobbing up and down and couldn’t speak full sentences and didn’t understand lifeguards telling him not to jump on the rope… I’m sorry I judged you. My first thought seeing you was sadness for your mother, because she must be looking at all these healthy, “normal” children and be angry you aren’t like that, too. My brain only said, “Thank God my son is healthy and smart and strong.” Never did I think that maybe your mom loves you just as you are – that maybe you changed her life for the better. Maybe you’ve shown her what true love, patience and empathy are about. Maybe you give her smiles that radiate far more than any smile I’ve ever given my own “healthy” son.
To the overweight man working at the pet store – who was sweating so profusely from just standing at the register – I’m sorry I judged you. I only saw someone who likely doesn’t care about what he eats or if he exercises. I told myself you were probably miserable at night eating pizza. I judged you too quickly to even assume you had any real worth. I never realized that within 30 minutes I’d be smiling at you for being so sweet to my children and our new puppy. I’d be impressed with how well you knew the products at your store and how welcoming and kindly you treated us as customers. I never thought that maybe for countless people in your life, you might be the happiness they need at the end of the day. I guess I didn’t realize how you are probably exponentially happier than I ever could be on a Tuesday morning, and the only miserable person eating pizza that night would be a certain mother of four who ordered Dominos at 8 p.m. because she was too tired to cook.
To the homeless man I encountered on the street, while sightseeing in San Francisco last week – whose scruffy beard was unkempt and whose clothes were filthy – I’m so sorry I judged you, too. My first thought passing you on the street was the wonderment of how on Earth you let yourself get here, begging on this noisy street each day. I looked away when our eyes met, and I was saddened that you stand on this corner almost as invisible as the tattered trash can sitting behind you. It wasn’t until my walking companion turned around and went back to give you money, that I stopped to see you a bit more. I saw there were drawings at your feet. People like me only see a dirty man begging for money, yet don’t have time to see there is an artist inside you with just as much creativity as anyone inside the San Francisco Art Institute. The day I saw you there, the day that the famed Batman actor Adam West died, you had sketched out a quirky, colored pencil drawing of Batman against the Golden Gate Bridge, and with the most painfully beautiful, sad blue eyes, you asked me to take it for free. You smiled at me and I felt like I might hit the pavement begging you to forgive me for not seeing you as a person. Why couldn’t I see this person who was once probably a very creative boy who got As in his art classes – that the dirty hands before me on this street probably once held his mother’s grip crossing a street as a child. Blast you sweet-hearted homeless man for making my heart ache more than it ever did for any high school crush I had.
To the guy who was recently seated at the adjacent bar table from me – who had a baby stroller parked next to his barstool as he threw back Guinness beers with his friends. Oh Lord, did I judge you… and I’m sorry. I couldn’t take my eyes off you – as I thought for sure you were going to kill that newborn baby you had tucked under the pink blankets, perhaps by breathing too many beer fumes on her or something, I have no clue. How dare you take a baby in a loud bar, I thought, and sit here and drink? Where was her mother, I wondered. I’m glad I stuck around to see you, to talk to you and find out that you – a native of Dublin, Ireland (where apparently babies in bars are quite the norm) are a doting father and you seem to be a wonderful person. I’m glad I saw your mom and your brother join you, in this reunion where your mom was here to visit her granddaughter for the first time from Ireland. I am sorry I misjudged a person who made me laugh out loud so many times I thought I’d need a spare pair of underwear by midnight. It was the first time I had met a stranger who I wished so badly was my friend.
To the mom I first saw years ago at a soccer game for our kids, who I thought seemed snobbish, simply for the clothes she wore and the snacks she brought her kids that day – I’m sorry. I’m sure there were dozens of women over the years I probably misjudged too, but you are the one who sticks out. You are the one who proved me wrong in showing how horribly wrong I was to judge a book by its cover. I never knew that day that eventually you’d become one of my best friends and that our children would be such good friends. You turned out to have such a pure, good heart and a genuine care for others that makes my ugly, green Grinch heart burst inside of its cage. You have shown me it’s possible to make a cherished friend I can rely on for a laugh, a cry – or a drink – and you don’t want anything but my friendship and laughter in return.
I’m doling out sorries today. If I owe one to you, please take it. I don’t want to pass on the Judgypants baton to my kids, either. There is too much beauty in the world, too many good friends who could be lost to the girl who lives a life with her own internal gavel. Being a 41-year-old mother of four, I thought I had everything and everyone figured out. I think I’m smart enough to say I judged myself wrong, too.
Beautifully written, Andrea! Thank you for the reminder to see someone for who they are and not for who we think they are.
Thanks Jen, that was exactly my intent– certainly not to be (ironically) judged by my thoughts!
Hey Mary. Appreciate your post, but you could’ve done a bit more research before writing and submitting it. You see, it’s not only your judgemental thoughts that hurt people with differences from you, but your words too. Your child is not “healthy” or “normal” whereas the other child is not. Your child is “typical” or “typically developing” and that other child has “special needs” or is “disabled.” I love that you’ve taken the first step in recognizing your harmful thoughts, if you want to go one step further and help change the conversation around children like the one at the pool and their parents, examining your language and leading by example by adjusting it for more sensitive and acceptable terms, you’d be doing something great. Especially if you’re going to post in a public forum.