At the gas station around the corner from my home, I saw a father buying cigarettes with his two kids. They were just little (maybe 4 and 6), so they’re taking in a lesson here. They read his compliance and understood, in a way, his approval.
My first thought was of indignation. How TERRIBLE! How dare he do this around his children! How could anyone do that with their kids? How could you smoke around your kids? How could you smoke and have kids at all?
Though I am exaggerating, as I didn’t actually get that worked up, a bit of disdain still rose up within me. I did not approve of what this man was doing. I’ve found myself feeling this way many times in my life. Perhaps we all feel this disapproval when we see parents not being perfect.
There was this time I saw a mother and father letting their child eat M&M’s out of the container in the stroller! How ignorant and enraging (I thought)!
Or this other time I saw a father speaking firmly with his son, even flipping on him a little bit.
These and countless others I have judged. How cozy it is to judge. In my place, you may very well have done the same.
But screw me … and screw you too!
These parents are just people living their lives trying to make ends meet. And they don’t need my ire, no matter how righteous it may be.
I can tell you something they do need (whether they ask for it or not) is my understanding, my compassion.
Maybe one time someone is going to see me upset with my daughter. And I’ll be judged … never mind the fact that I may not have had a goodnight’s sleep in 2 years, and I’m at the end of my rope. Never mind the fact that I stumbling in my work or be stressed about a shoulder injury I got for the 15 time. Or whatever!
I’m not saying that in that moment, in these moments, I or anyone else isn’t doing something wrong. That man shouldn’t be buying any cigarettes around his kids or the other man harshly addressing his kid. But how many times has the one father tried to kick the habit (addiction)? He probably hates himself a little bit for still smoking already. It doesn’t help for us to compound that.
And here’s the point of points:
He’s my brother. She’s my sister. We’re all “fellow prisoners of splendor and travail of the earth” as Matthew Scully once wrote. And we can bring good into this world, every day. Though the intentions are good in frowning on behaviours, such as those above. It comes from that desire for the world to be better. We wouldn’t judge if we didn’t care. Right?
Ironically, the first step is to look at ourselves and just care about each other. In the very least this means sharing a look of love rather than disdain.
Here’s a cheesy (and beautiful) song to wrap up this mushy post