One of the things that I work hardest on as a human being is being nonjudgmental. There are times it comes more easily than others. On an individual basis, I find it easy not to judge. My most difficult times are out in public, when I come across someone who looks a certain way. I judge in that moment before I talk to them. I judge on sight alone. When I get the opportunity to speak to them, I am most often wrong.
And I’m glad of it.
I walked into the grocery store a few days ago to go to the ATM. There were two ATMs side by side, and there was a man standing at one of them. He had tattoos all over his head and face, his arms and legs. He wore black cargo shorts and a black T-shirt, and when he turned to look at me, had his fangs pierced. He also had a gun strapped to his hip.
My thoughts were almost so automatic that I didn’t even think them. I thought, “He’s a 1 per center.” I thought, “Does he know how limited he is because of how he looks?” Then I thought, “I wonder how many people feel unsafe walking up next to him? I’m probably safer than I’ve ever been at an ATM.”
As I approached the ATM, I had no expectation of anything, but he turned his head toward me, and said in a gentle voice, “How are you today, ma’am?”
“Fine thanks. And how are you?”
“I’m good. It’s my Friday, so I’m happy.”
“Oh, well it’s actually my Sunday, so I have to go back tomorrow.”
He got his money. “Well, you have a nice day, ma’am.”
“Thanks, and you too.”
Contrast that to the interaction I had a few days earlier with a woman at Target. She looked like she could have been on her way to church, in her 50’s. She didn’t even say “excuse me” when she bumped into me.
That nice man made me smile. Because by the time he left the ATM, I didn’t really see the tattoos on his face anymore. I saw a gentleman who took a moment out of his day to wish someone well.