…because of people i know

i went to the grocery store with one of the people i work with.  this person has a home.  a home with a broken microwave. a small air conditioner. a few plates. some stuffed animals. this person is polite, kind, and shy.  he wears the same dirty clothes for weeks at a time.  and on some days we tell each other jokes.  this person has not and does not use illicit substances.  this person does not have family members who are able to help. this person receives food stamps and uses them correctly. this person has a severe and persistent mental illness.  and his favorite food is lobster.

this person goes to the grocery store and gets followed around because workers assume he will steal. parents pull their children closer when he reaches to grab the canned soup. this person gets dirty looks for the items he places in his cart. and his worth is judged by the card he holds to pay for his groceries. this person will walk up to the counter and the cashier will look at him and then look over at me, smile and say, “it’s going to be food stamps all day. here i am working to pay for them to eat and these people get to do drugs and hang out all day.”

a mental illness is a brain disease characterized by a disruption of thoughts, feelings, and mood. a mental illness can impact a person’s daily functioning and ability to cope with the basic demands of life. i cannot tell you what the experience was like for him on the inside, because i couldn’t possibly fully understand it. but i do know what it was like for me to watch from the outside. this was one person. one day. one trip to the grocery store. one interaction with another human being. one story.

and sometimes i get simultaneously overwhelmed and overjoyed by all of our individual human experiences. our individual interactions with the world. and on days like today, i look around and think of all the people i’m looking at and taking in without even knowing. i think about all the people i know and all of the people i don’t.  and i think about how often our judgements prior to meeting someone color our interactions with them. what i want you to know is that poor does not mean criminal. and mental illnesses are not characteristic of personal failings.  what i want you to recognize is that you cannot possibly look at someone standing on the street or walking along the sidewalk from the comfort of your car and know their story.  that you cannot dictate how someone spends their money simply because they have less than you. what i want you to know is that in the midst of  judgements, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to have your life shaped by another human being with a different life experience than yours.

i hope that at the end of my life, one of my greatest accomplishments will be that i took advantage of every opportunity to get to know someone before assuming that i already do. i hope that i’ll collect lots of stories and share lots of experiences. and i hope that i’ll become a better person because of all of the people i interact with along the way.

  • i know a person who wants to get better.
  • i know a person who is stigmatized because of their mental illness and outward appearance.
  • i know a person who goes to church every sunday and walks outside to judge the person standing on the street corner.grocery store. gas station.
  • i know a person who doesn’t have a home but has a job.
  • i know a person who is not homeless but panhandles because she grew up so poor.
  • i know a person who wants to work but cannot manage their psychiatric symptoms.
  • i know a person who, after paying all of their bills, will have $3 for the rest of the month.
  • i know a person who is financially well off that takes advantage of the system for their own financial gain.
  • i know a person who never saw a single person work while growing up in her family.
  • i know a person who has a mental illness and is a teacher.
  • i know a person who is not ready to quit using and sells their food stamps.
  • i know a person who is embarrassed to receive government assistance because of the stigma attached to it.
  • i know a person who is treated poorly by others but continues to choose to love.
  • i know people who have changed my life because they’ve allowed me into theirs.
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11 thoughts on “…because of people i know

  1. This is absolutely beautiful! Thank you for the sweet reminder that people aren’t all that they seem at first glance, or even second or third. May we all remember to get to know and love those around us instead of judge and condemn.

    1. Thank you so much Lauren! This is something I like to remind myself about on a daily basis and have really taken to heart. This particular day was such a powerful lesson on getting to know someone before assuming that I did and really becoming aware of the way my pre-judgements impact my interactions with others. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and say such positive, kind, and encouraging words. Thank you for that :)

  2. Jessica-

    A friend on Facebook linked to your post about being 25 and after reading that and LOVING it (despite being 29), I clicked around to see what your blog was all about. Color me impressed. Bless your heart. This quote, “what i want you to know is that poor does not mean criminal. and mental illnesses are not characteristic of personal failings. what i want you to recognize is that you cannot possibly look at someone standing on the street or walking along the sidewalk from the comfort of your car and know their story. that you cannot dictate how someone spends their money simply because they have less than you. what i want you to know is that in the midst of judgments, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to have your life shaped by another human being with a different life experiences than yours,” was one of the most thoughtful, insightful, and intelligent stream of thoughts I’ve read. Ever. I’ve read a lot, too. My heart was so, so full after reading your thoughts. I had an uncle with a mental illness who was so mistreated by the world. Until his last day on earth, though, he’d tell everyone he met that he, “loved in the Lord and loved you, too.” He has every reason to be bitter and he never was. He was such a great example for me. I’m know that I’m a stranger, but I’m completely proud of you and I hope that means something. I’m bookmarking your blog now.

    1. hi jenna,

      from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. for taking the time to read my blog and for leaving such a beautiful comment. i wish that everyone could understand how difficult and complex mental illnesses are-and can be. it sounds like your uncle was a strong and loving person, and it sounds like you are too. it means so much to have a complete stranger tell me how proud they are of me, thank you for that. my heart is so overwhelmingly full after reading your comment. i hope you’ll continue to read my blog and that it will continue to offer you a little bit of inspiration :)

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      I hope you know how much your comment means to me. This particular post is really close to my heart and is something I wish more people would think about. Thank you so much for taking the time to read some of my other posts, and especially this one :). I hope to hear from you again!

      -Jessica

    1. Hello!

      I would absolutely love for you to share my blog with your facebook group!! Thank you so so much! :) What is the name of your facebook group? I would love to check that out as well!

  3. This is such a sweet reminder of how not to judge. I teared up the whole way reading this. Would it be possible to share this at my local Youth Group? I’m doing a talk on identity & appearance and feel this would fit in perfectly. Hope you are well & happy wherever you are! :)

    1. I would absolutely love if you shared this with your youth group Hannah! You are so wonderful :)

      P.S. I finally have internet so I am working on writing you now!…. hope to talk to you sooonnn!!

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