Earlier this week I did a post called Think well of your friends. Since then I have been feeling like I wasn't totally honest. I threw Greg under the bus, but, you see, I misjudge people, too.
I started going to my parish a few years ago. Several times there was a man who sat behind me who I was frightened of. Why? Well, he was husky, had a mustache, and a very gruff look on his face. He always smiled quite friendly like during the sign of peace, but he otherwise looked angry. At least I thought he looked angry. It turned out, he was just tired.
This man was a police officer who worked the night shift. Why? So that he could be home to take care of his disabled stepdaughter while his wife was at work. How gentle is that? Taking care of a disabled stepchild....Working a crummy shift so that he and his wife could take turns caring for her...Apparantly he was an amazing individual that I didn't get to know because I misjudged his tired expression (he came to Church right after his shift, before going home. Wow. Honoring God before going to bed after working the night shift....) for an angry one.
Had I not prejudged, and instead said, "Hi, my name is Helen, this is my husband Bob...." I might have found these things out before he died. He died in the line of duty last year. I didn't go to the wake or funeral. I needed to stay home with mom, and the crowd for a policeman's wake or funeral is deservedly large. I found out all these things from people talking at meetings about what a tragedy his death was, what a wonderful man he was, and about how his stepchildren spoke of him being more a father than a stepfather to them at his funeral.
What bothers me more than not actually ever getting to know this individual, is wondering what God had in mind for me when I noticed that man's expression. Was I supposed to be friendly, and ignore his expression? Was I supposed to ask him how he was, and offer some compassion? Whatever I was meant to do, I know I didn't do it. I didn't do it because I decided to be afraid of him because I prejudged his expression. I know God forgives me for my error. I also know that the man in question most likely did not know I was afraid of him any more than I knew he was tired. But still, I missed the boat. Next time, I hope to offer compassion, instead of fear. I also hope God trusts me with a "next time"...