I was standing in the check-out line at my neighborhood Food Lion when a boy, about 10ish, came stomping through the front doors having a hissy fit. “I don’t wanna take my medicine! I won’t take my medicine! And you can’t make me!” The kid was obviously out of control. Sounds to me like he NEEDS his medicine, I thought. It was such a perfect wise-crack that I turned around to see if I might share it with the person standing behind me in line.
A man with disheveled hair who looked like he had not bathed or shaved in several days clutched the sole item he was purchasing to his chest—an over-sized, brown bottle of cheap, nasty beer. At 8:00 in the morning. How sad was that? He was the caricature of an alcoholic.
Here I am, surrounded by people who can’t make it through the day without their drug of choice, I thought. What a sad commentary on our world.
I collected my bags. Two bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper and some mini-pretzels. This is why I had to make an emergency run to Food Lion at 8:00 on a Saturday morning. I carved out the day for writing. It’s grueling work and I knew I would never get through it without lots of caffeine, which I take cold, and something crunchy to eat. Yes, Diet Dr. Pepper and a bag of mini-pretzels ought to do the trick. I had to make an emergency run to Food Lion because I don’t keep such stuff in my house. I don’t keep such stuff in my house because I know it’s not good for me. Needless to say, I make a lot of emergency runs to Food Lion.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw beer man. He didn’t seem to be headed toward any car, so apparently he had walked to the store. It’s a good thing, I thought. He approached an old man with a cane and I assumed beer man was asking the poor, defenseless man for money. Oh, leave the old guy alone! But then after a brief conversation, beer man smiled broadly, took the empty shopping cart from the old guy and returned it to the cart rack for him.
And that’s when my judgmentalism smacked me in the face. In the course of a typical day, I wonder how many judgmental assumptions I make about other people. I have come to the conclusion that it brings me great comfort to identify their problems without even knowing them as people. No doubt they do have problems, because we all do, but I can’t begin to know what they are. Still, it makes me feel better about myself when I can feel superior to other people and so this is what I do, usually without thinking about it. But I thought about it this morning. And the truth is, the only person in my little “Saturday Morning at Food Lion” scenario with a problem that I can identify with certainty is me.