Not too long ago, out of a combination of desperation and laziness, I went to a business near my neighborhood that I don't normally frequent. It was a cute, clean shop. The woman who helped me was friendly and outgoing. While making small talk, the conversation turned to the up coming July 4th holiday. We were exchanging complaints about fireworks being set off in the evenings already when she added "And it's always the gross people too. You know, the ones who can't even afford to pay their rent. How are they spending hundreds of dollars on fireworks?" I sat silently, feeling a bit shocked and thinking "Holy crap, that was not nice". I just couldn't think of an appropriate response. After only a few seconds pause she started chatting again about something totally different, never seeming to notice my lack of response.
I left that business feeling a bit put off, to say the least. I've given the comment a lot of thought and clearly it's still bugging me since I'm writing about it. Maybe I'm overreacting by finding the comment incredibly rude, but this was a woman who had never met me before and didn't know a thing about me. What exactly qualifies someone as a "gross person"? Maybe I'm gross. Why would you ever assume someone is buying fireworks with their rent money? Then all of a sudden, while ruminating on all of this, I had a realization: I'm judging her for judging other people. I'm doing the same dang thing!
I'm a fan of the old saying "Never judge someone til you've walked a mile in their shoes". I've gone through periods in my life where I've made choices that I thought were best at the time, but lost friends who didn't agree with me. I would like to say I don't ever judge people but we all do it. It's almost impossible not to, isn't it? The guy who cut me off in traffic is a selfish jerk. The person who doesn't pick up their dog's poo is lazy. I catch myself doing it all the time and I give myself a mental slap on the wrist. I consider myself to be a kind, accepting person. I understand that not everyone is the same. Even so, it's difficult to not put my expectations onto others: don't talk loudly on your cell phone in public, pick up after your dog, obey traffic laws, say please and thank you. For me, those are simple things we should all do to be respectful of each other and that's the way I act in public. However we all make mistakes and I'm sure there are things I do that other people don't like, even when I think I'm being polite.
I don't think I'll go into that business again. It's my own little way of saying I'd rather not hear people talk about others that way. I believe The Universe is always teaching us and since this experience I've been more mindful of how I look at others and what I think about them. I am thankful for all the people who have forgiven my poor choices and love me any way so I hope I can be in that role for someone else.