I saw a sign at the coffee shop:
Indeed. How often do we make an assumption of someone without knowing the truth of their experiences, struggles, and dreams?
Maybe you’re assuming something right now. Such as, “Isn’t she a writer? Doesn’t she know this isn’t proper English?” Yes. Yes, I do. But it’s the quote I saw at the coffee shop. If I change it, it’s not a quote. (And by the way, it’s attributed to Anonymous, so I didn’t fail to give someone credit. I simply don’t know who gets the credit. Maybe the person didn’t want to take credit because of the poor English usage. Oh, wait. There I go, assuming.)
Assuming helps us make sense of the world. It’s a useful tool for helping us categorize all the sensory information we come in contact with every day. But a tool can be misused. We can be wrong.
The disheveled child coming to school doesn’t necessarily have a neglectful parent. Some kids can look pretty rough by their own efforts in the short ride to school. And maybe a family member is in the hospital and someone who doesn’t have much experience with kids’ hair helped out in the middle-of-the-night crisis. And the clothes they threw in a bag were the dirty ones the kid threw into the clean clothes pile the day before (because we don’t always fold clothes when we take them out of the dryer). And the kid had an emotional meltdown when told to wash her face after the chocolately breakfast cereal mishap, and who wants to make a kid even more upset after the rough night she’s had, and…
You get the point. You don’t know the story of the couple at the grocery store, or the new co-worker, or the clerk at the convenience store. You just don’t know.
Of course, some assumptions help us help others. We reach out with a smile or a helpful hand or a question as to whether or not they want us to call for help, because their body language tells us something isn’t right. But we’re not always helpful because of our assumptions. Sometimes we’re judgmental.
We assume. We assume we know. But we don’t know.
And we can’t always know. We won’t always know. But we also don’t have to let our assumptions run wild. We need to keep them in check and refrain from sharing them except in situations that might help someone.
Otherwise, our assumptions will likely hurt someone, including ourselves.