There are three hundred units in the condominium complex where I live. The residents come from a variety of backgrounds, including ethnicity, a wide range of ages and sexual orientation. For the most part we get along pretty good. Many of us are dog owners and it is those persons whom I usually interact with when walking my dogs. Like dogs, we are pretty consistent with our schedules when it comes to what time we walk them. There is one dog owner, Chris whom I talk with most of the time and we usually talk about the funny things our pooches are doing. He looks to be in his early 60s and is a white male. Other than what I just told you, I don’t know anything more about him… until today. He likes to roller blade; listens to the heavy metal band ACDC (he owns several of their CDs), practices yoga, is vegetarian and meditates. Never in a million years would I have guessed that he did all that, which got me to thinking about how often (all the time) I “assume” I know who people are.
I know I’m not the only one who does this because I’ve talked with others who make assumptions about people without evidence to back it up. For example; we have a problem in the complex with trash not being thrown inside the dumpster. It ends up alongside and makes a big mess. A neighbor told me she believes it is a “renter,” even though she never sees who does it. I asked her why she believes that and she said, “Because renters don’t take care of their properties like homeowners.” I’m a renter and I care about where I live and keeping my space clean. I mentioned that to her and she didn’t respond. The other day I was talking with a guy who is a cosmetologist. He dresses pretty hip and enjoys the music “scene,” so imagine my surprise when he told me that guys who have a lot of tattoos are “low life.” My son has more tattoos than I can count (except for his neck, face and hands. Thank God! He’d really be judged if he did). Since this person works in a hair salon, he talks with women all day but when it comes to dating, he stopped trying. In his opinion, women like “bad boys,” like those with numerous tattoos and who work in auto repair shops! At that point I am almost laughed out loud! Who wouldn’t want to date a mechanic? Cars always need something fixed, but in his mind, they are all “low lifes.”
How many times have you judged someone by the way they look? We are visual creatures and It’s easy to be wrong and I bet most of us most of the time. Even if we think we know someone because we work with them all week; how many of us have different personalities behind closed doors than what we show to the public? There used to be a woman who used to live across from me, who was soft-spoken and always apologizing for something. She came across as a “victim,” but on two occasions I could hear her inside her condo screaming at someone (I’m guessing on the phone), so she wasn’t nearly as timid as she came across in person. I know we all are capable of that and are more relaxed in our home but, the point I’m making is we assume we know people but maybe we really don’t.
I know the majority of people who I talk to in my complex don’t know who I am either. They know I use a walker and have two dogs and sometimes wear weird outfits (that’s what my husband says anyway) and that’s about it. My neighbors ask me how I am and when I say, “fine, ” the next ten minutes are spent with me listening to an update about what’s new in their lives or “gossip.” I’m never asked what I do all day or what inspires me or what music I listen to, and I don’t offer that information either. I don’t know why, I just don’t. I write about it instead. Maybe meditation has changed the way I relate to people. I know I don’t enjoy listening to gossip anymore (it’s usually information based on wrong assumptions anyway) and I really don’t like negative speech.
Ever since I got well and started studying Buddhism, my perspective changed. I now believe we are all responsible for our own actions/choices. From what I observed, most people who are negative, blame others for problems they helped create but they don’t see it that way. It’s not my job to point that out… well, to be honest the few times I did, those persons gave me the “stink eye” so I stopped. I came to the conclusion that some people like drama, that’s probably why reality shows are popular. For me, I want to live a peaceful existence. I had more than my share of drama when I had cancer… thank you very much.
The next time you talk with someone, ask them questions (that is, if you’re interested in finding out who they are), then see if your assumptions about them are correct. You may be surprised what you find out.