Years ago when my oldest son was a wibbling, wobbling toddler, I will never forget the day his stuffed Curious George went sailing through the aisle at our local grocery. While first appalled that my son would turn his beloved companion into a public projectile, I couldn’t help but chuckle as George came to rest in the narrow gauntlet between multiple canned goods. I may have even grinned from ear to ear.
Unfortunately, my laughter quickly subsided, as George landed a mere 3-4 feet in front of one of those motorized carts, donned by an obviously, elderly lady.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. My son threw his favorite stuffed animal.”
Instead of the articulated grace perhaps far too naively expected, the lady’s countenance turned immediately stern, glaring at me, squinting her eyes, and then retorting, “You need to get better control of your children!”
I was shocked. What? I need to get better control? There is no grace for a harmless throw of Curious George?
Let me tell you what I did not…
I did not conclude that all elderly women are as withholding of grace as she. I did not conclude that all persons on motorized carts have lost respect for the rest of the waiting world. No. I made zero conclusions about the elderly nor those on those oh-so-cool motorized carts.
However, my sense is that refraining from making conclusions — when we have 1 “bad” experience — is the rarity as opposed to the norm.
How often do we do that? How often do we make conclusions about an entire demographic because of a singular experience? For example…
Have you had 1 “bad” experience with a Christian? (“Bad” equates to harshness and immediate judgment.) Have you had 2, 4, maybe even 17 “bad” interactions? There are billions of Christians on this planet. Even 17 so-called “bad” experiences pale in comparison.
Have you had 1 “bad” experience with a Republican or Democrat? (“Bad” equates to arrogance and a clear failure to listen.) There are millions of partisans on this planet; they are not all the same. In fact, I have a brother who is a state legislator. He is ethical, fiscally responsible, and he listens to those he represents. More of our representatives — regardless of party — should be like him.
Have you had 1 “bad” experience with a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community? … or with someone who believes LGBT behavior is unnatural? (“Bad” equates to so passionate they actually justify condescendence of persons with differing opinion.) I have friends who are gay… and friends who believe homosexuality is sinful. I have both who still love and respect their neighbor.
Friends, one of the most accepted forms of arrogance on this planet is when we make judgments about entire people groups because of 1 “bad” experience. Sure, we don’t feel it’s only 1. We find other likeminded persons to “amen” our experience, so we’re never confronted with the darts that pierce our self-inflated bubbles; we’re never confronted with the reality that challenges our self-created reality. In other words, we allow 1 or 2 or even 17 “bad” experiences to tell us what we want to hear — as opposed to be on a continuous seeking of actual truth. Too many times, experience trumps truth.
When the lady at that grocery challenged my parenting, I wish all could have witnessed the astonished look on my face…
“What? I need to get better control of my children?”
I knew her response was not the response of all people. It was not even the response of all elderly women on motorized carts. Hence, I smiled, paused, and said the first thing that came to mind…
“Have a nice day, ma’am. I will, too.”