Ever wonder where the old adage about why assuming is a bad idea came from? I like to think of myself of as being open-minded yet, a tad cynical. I feel it’s what gives me my “scrappiness”. I’m not doe-eyed and I’ve always been skeptical, just a little bit. I never trust anything 100% because that’s when we make an ass out of me and sometimes you.
Anyways, I must be getting soft in my old age because I forgot my own wisdom and made an assumption about someone. I was wrong. I was very wrong but it reminded me of something, never judge a book by its cover. Get to know the story first.
It also reminded me that you never know what’s going on in someone’s life at any given moment. So that sour puss they are sporting, the one you are judging them for, it may be the best the could muster on this day. Maybe their dog just died. Maybe they just found out they have cancer. Maybe they really need to go to the bathroom and you are what’s standing between them and a bowel accident of epic proportions. The thing is we never know, do we? Bear all of this in mind, when I share the story that reminded me to always get to know the story behind someone. It’s seldom easy and never black and white, so stop judging and dole out a little more kindness and understanding.
There is an elderly gentleman in our neighborhood, who for the better of the past 5 years that I’ve lived in this house, has walked the trails behind our home. I see this man on a daily basis more than I see almost anyone else. He is constantly walking.
Over the years, he has lost weight and gotten in shape. He has smiling eyes and always says hello. He just walks, all year round. Headphones on, head down, walking for infinity.
I won’t lie, somehow from his smiling eyes, stoic determination, and gentle face, I made the leap ( the assumption) that he was most likely an elderly man who had fallen on ill health and rather than give up, he was determined to be in peak physical health. I imagined him beating cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and just about any physical ailment that a man his age might be encountering.
In a way, he inspired me. I saw him walking when I was dealing with my own health issues and he inspired me to get hold of myself. I mean if a man at least 30 years my senior could be so dedicated to his cause, I could at least put forth an effort and so, I did and it worked. I’m healthy.
But you know, I never had a real conversation with this man. I talk to a lot of my neighbors but he is always walking and I know how hard it is to stay motivated to work out so I didn’t want to interrupt his groove. I had this whole idea of him that I looked up to. I’d see him from my kitchen window as I washed the dishes or from the laundry room and think to myself, Get it Grandpa! Then, I found out the truth.
One day while talking to another neighbor, who has lived here for many years longer than I have, this elderly man with the smiling eyes walked past and waved to her. She, around his same age, waved back but in an almost annoyed way. I was curious.
I said, “Wow! That guy walks a lot! He must be the healthiest man in the neighborhood. I wish I could be as dedicated to working out as he is. Did something happen to him?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Did he have a heart attack or something? I see him walking constantly, all day long. I assumed he had some kind of health scare that caused the inspiration to walk constantly.”
“Nope, He didn’t have a heart attack. Nothing is wrong with him except he is a drunk!”
Not what I expected, at all. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve known him for many years. He used to be a fall down drunk. Now, he’s a walking drunk. He drinks so much that he gets sloppy and falls into bushes and talks too much to the neighbors. My husband ( a sheriff) has found him in our bushes many times and taken him home.”
“Yeah, his wife wouldn’t tolerate it anymore so now, he drinks until he’s drunk. Walks it off. Drinks some more and then walks it off. This is what he does all day long. Drinks and walks.”
WTF?? Talk about missing the mark. I was so far off the mark; I wasn’t even on the right continent. I have to admit, I am somewhat disappointed. He’s not an inspiration; he’s just trying to make the best of his shitty situation which when you think about it, isn’t that all any of us is really doing?
Maybe he is an inspiration after all. Obviously, not in the traditional sense. I won’t be joining his workout program anytime soon or anything but he’s making lemon drops out of his lemons and that’s something, right? But it was a gentle reminder, it doesn’t help to make assumptions about other people, good or otherwise, just let the story unfold an get to know people and their stories for what they are not for what you imagine or expect them to be.