This was my status update on my Facebook page yesterday. It was a personal story and it got such a huge response from friends and family that I thought I would expand on it here.

My Status

backpackUn-freaking-believable. I was out walking Lola and I saw a black case at the edge of the road. I recognized it was a saxophone case and right next to it was a kid’s backpack with a flute case sticking out of the top. There wasn’t a single person in sight and this stuff was sitting IN THE ROAD.

So… I did what I though any normal, decent human being would do. I started looking for a tag on the instrument case (we ALWAYS had name tags with address and phone on our cases). But no such luck. So I pulled out the flute case and still no tag.

Right as I’m sliding the flute case back into the backpack, a woman whips her car around the corner, flinging gravel everywhere and yells “CAN I HELP YOU?” with an angry look on her face. I explained that I saw this obviously expensive stuff sitting here in the road with no one around and I was trying to find out who it belonged to so I could return it.

She says it was her daughter’s stuff and her daughter was waiting for the bus (which seemed odd to me since it was almost 9am, but whatever). About that time a middle school girl starts walking up from a couple houses away. I just said, “well I’m glad it belongs to her and it’s safe now.” and then continued on with Lola.

There was no thanking me for trying to help, no mentions to the daughter not to leave her expensive band instruments out in the road, nada. Just glaring at me as I walked away as if I was going to snatch the stuff right out of her daughter’s hands (like we need any more band instruments in this house). Anyway…

How on earth do people end up being so rude?

My follow-up comment

I think what floors me is this… I can understand her wondering what I was doing going through her daughter’s backpack, but I thought my simple (and extremely logical) explanation of looking for an ID so I could return it to the owner would have been enough to diffuse the situation and calm her down. Apparently not.

Now I wonder what they are really hiding in those instrument cases… 

My thoughts

A little later on that day, I thought a little more about the situation. How is it that we have come to assume the worst in people? The recent controversy over police shootings also comes to mind. I’m not claiming to know what is right or wrong in those situations, but there was first an assumption of guilt based on how the situation looked at the time.

In my case, the woman’s voice and actions were threatening me before she even heard my explanation. She never once stopped to put herself in my shoes and think about what she would have done had SHE been the one out walking and MY kids had left their bags in the road.

Now lets take this one step further. What assumptions are we making about our girls that assume wrongdoing or incompetence? How about victim-blaming? Or fat-shaming? Those are all things we do based on the story we heard or the side that was portrayed in the media.

We need to change this

We need to try to first understand a situation before we make a judgement call about it. That is hard. We are often way too quick to form an opinion based on what we see.

But opinion is not fact. It’s time to challenge those underlying assumptions we have about people and work to understand the situation.

I could be angry at that women and downright pissed off that she thought I was stealing her kid’s stuff, but what would that do? I realize that from her vantage point it may have looked like theft and she was doing what moms do and protecting her kid. I understand that.

Her approach was over-the-top and she never even tried to apologize or even calm down. That’s where I think we completely miss the mark. Humans seem to have an impossible time of admitting when they are wrong.

It’s ok to make a mistake. If we could all make an attempt to understand a situation and even admit when we are wrong, can you image how much better this world would be?

If you have an example of how you have applied understanding to a situation or admitted you were wrong on a particular topic, I’d love to hear your viewpoint and explore this issue in more detail. Drop me a line in the comments below and let’s discuss this issue.


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