Yesterday as I stood in a long line at the tax office, I noticed people glancing at something in another line and stepping around it with disgust. As I looked closely, I noticed it was a pair of shoes. Why were they there? I then scanned the room to see if there was someone with no shoes on.
In the sitting area, I noticed a young lady with a crying baby that she was rocking and four other children, two sitting quietly and two others who were quite rambunctious. I could tell by the look on her face that she was extremely frustrated, as she glanced from the crying baby to the pair of shoes that was supposedly reserving her space.
I left my place in the line to see if I could help her. She explained that she had been sent there by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Someone at her church had given her a van and she needed a tax receipt before she could get it registered and get a license plate for it.
I asked if I could hold her baby and keep an eye on the other children while she took care of her business. I told her to take the place where I was standing in line and the lady who had been standing behind me graciously nodded yes, when she approached her and asked if she could step in.
I rocked the baby, but how would I keep the other four occupied? I thought about what my toddler granddaughter liked and pulled out my phone to find some videos. “The Wheels on the Bus” was the first thing that popped up and as I hit play they all gathered around to watch. Yes Lord!!! The next video up was Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. I sat there thanking God for technology and a granddaughter who had those videos downloaded on my phone!
As the mom returned with tears in her eyes, she thanked me over and over again. I did not know her story, but I could tell by her eyes that she was someone who had been deeply hurt; someone whose self-esteem had been deeply crushed. I had dedicated my life to working with women just like her and I knew she was feeling helpless and like she didn’t matter.
I offered to help her to her car. She stated that she was walking, as she pointed to a stroller over in the corner. It was seated for three. I had never seen anything like it before, but was happy that someone had thought of it. As she had no car seats for the children, which is a state law, there was no way for me to give her a ride. I took her name and contact information then gave her my business card. I knew this was someone with whom I wanted to follow-up. I wanted her to know that there was hope, a better life out there waiting for her and those who were willing to help her find her way.
As I took my place at the end of the line, I thought about all the people in that place who had watched the young lady struggle. Not only that, they had looked at her disgustedly. They had looked at the shoes that she had left to mark HER space and thought to themselves, how dare she. Actually, I thought it was a brilliant move! She had done so because she thought others would respect her situation, but instead she got silently ridiculed and shunned for it. They had no idea what her story was or how she got into her situation, they simply decided to judge her.
Why do we judge, instead of lending a hand? Why do we assume we know someone’s story without really knowing it? Why do we not reach out to see if we can make someone’s life better in some small way, instead of being disgusted by it?
“We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.”….Pema Chodron