Being quick to perceive others & their character, their heart, their intentions, or even their background wrongfully, happens more often in my life than I like. While we’re on the topic of misconceptions I wanted to share a short story of a time when I quickly judged someone and learned a lot from it.
While standing in line during one of my visits to the Post Office a woman walked in, saw the long line and said loud enough for all to hear her opinion of the line and the Post Office. I had come to pick up five packages that were all fairly large and awkward to carry. I decided to take only three of the boxes with me and come back another day for the rest. Not an ideal choice but I had to get back to work. As I was struggling with the three boxes the woman from earlier spoke up and said she could carry some of the boxes for me. Red flags flew up all over in my mind; I thought of the warnings and experiences of people I knew who lived in our neighborhood. What ran through my mind was not especially gracious. I decided to politely thank her and decline. While I was saying those words however, the three boxes I was carrying toward the door shifted and I staggered under them. Without hesitation the woman grabbed two of them and said, “Honey, just let me help you.”
As we walked, the woman began to tell me about how her mother taught her to always help a person in need no matter what the situation or who they are. “You were struggling with those boxes!” she proclaimed! “So, I just had to step in and help you out!” I looked at this woman, finally seeing her, and realized how quickly I had judged. I also realized if the situation had been with us in opposite spots, I would not have been so ready to help her.
Humbled, I thanked the woman and we laughed at how funny I looked staggering toward the door with the three packages. The woman then asked me why I had so many and I shared boxes were wedding presents from out-of-town friends. The woman broke into a big grin and told me how fantastic that was. I whole-heartedly agreed, loaded the boxes into the trunk, and again thanked the woman telling her how much it meant that she would step out of the long line and help me. “Of course, we’re neighbors,” she stated, “We help each other out.”
As I turned to get into my car a little man in his fifties who had also been at the back of the line at the Post Office hurried up to me, “Excuse me ma’am,” he said, “I overheard you had a few other packages you had to leave behind. Can I help you with those so you don’t have to come back another day and wait through the line again?” I stood there incredulously and then said, “That would be great, thank you so much!”
As we walked back into the Post Office the woman who had been helping me, now standing at the back of the line, saw me and proclaimed to everyone, “This girl is getting married!! That’s why she has all these boxes!” The older man walking with me gave me a big grin and a pat on the back and suddenly all fifteen or so people standing in line started clapping for me. We picked up the rest of the packages waiting, loaded them into my car. “Best wishes,” the man said, he then tipped his hat & walked back to take his place at the back of the line in the Post Office.
I sat in my car for a while after that just soaking up what had happened. I had been so quick to judge the woman and almost lost out on meeting a kind neighbor. Many random people in the Post Office applauded me. Most importantly, both the woman & the man exposed my stereotyping and showed me what being a neighbor looks like and what it means being a part of this community.