Oh snap!

23 Apr

Have you ever made a snap judgment that was way off the mark? Probably you have. Probably we all have. And I have as well. Some time ago, I was in a gas station store getting a soda. That particular store had a lot of gambling options, lots of scratch off tickets for sale, several lottery tickets, and other options. There was a man at the counter buying all kinds of those items, and I remember thinking he was just throwing his money away. An older woman, and what looked like her young granddaughter came into the store, and the little girl was chanting, “We want five dollars on number 4! We want five dollars on number 4!” I thought she was talking about one of the gambling options, and I was disgusted to think the grandmother was teaching this young child about that. Imagine my shame when I heard the little girl go to the counter and ask for five dollars worth of gas on pump number four. I felt horrible. Why did I jump to such a sad conclusion without any facts to back it up? I don’t normally judge others this way, and I felt so ashamed. I looked out the window and noticed their car was a big old gas guzzler, and seeing it, I realized that five dollars wasn’t going to go very far but may have been all they could afford. In order to somehow redeem myself for judging them so inappropriately, I went to the counter and paid the cashier to add additional fuel to their pump. Then I walked outside and said hello to the woman. I told her I had paid for some extra gas for them, and I hoped it would help. She was so grateful, and thanked me profusely – which I have to say, just made me feel worse. I told her it was my pleasure, to have a nice day, and I left. I remember driving away feeling so ashamed that I had made such an awful mistake, and humbled to realize I needed to change.

I have never forgotten that experience. Why was I so quick to judge that day? Why did I assume the worst? I have no idea. But whatever the reason was, it was wrong. We never really know what is going on in someone else’s life. We don’t know their personal circumstances, we don’t know their struggles, we don’t know if they’re happy or sad, and we certainly don’t know what decisions they are making. Making snap judgments based on little or no facts, and just on our (sometimes flawed) perceptions, is simply wrong. We just don’t have the whole story, and until we know all the facts, it’s impossible to understand anything.

That woman at the gas station will never know what was going on inside my head that day. She didn’t know that my gift of gas was really penance for a bad choice. If you have made this sort of judgment yourself, take heart, it’s not permanent, and you can change. Today as you’re going through your ups and downs, and you see those around you doing whatever it is they are doing, remember that what you see might not be what is happening at all. We never have all the facts until others give them to us. Be careful with your judgments. Don’t make assumptions based on half a conversation, an overheard statement, a surprise action or anything else. Don’t assume anything. Wait for the facts. That day at the gas station was a humbling experience for me. I won’t forget it. But remembering when we falter is a blessing. It helps us correct our courses, and if we listen, can teach us to be better. Today is a new day. Don’t snap. You could be wrong.

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