If there is one thing I’ve learned by living as I get older is that you can’t stereotype. We are all guilty of it. You look at someone and size them up by what they are wearing, their looks and their general attitude. I used to think I was really good at first impressions but over the years I’ve been proven wrong time and time again. Those people I thought were obviously gay who weren’t and a few I never imagined would be gay, were. People who have had a hard life and have built up a “get her before she gets me” attitude, I see in a softer light now. Those women with the ‘nicest husband in the world’ who are nervous wrecks because of what they endure behind closed doors. We are too quick to pass judgement before we know the whole story.
Everyone wants love, Everyone has had pain in their lives, but some so much more that others. The examples of ‘expectations’ like getting out of our comfy beds, being healthy, having a fresh cup of coffee at hand and a secure place to drink it got me thinking how much we take these things for granted until we don’t have them. And we take for granted that everyone’s lives are like ours and judge them because they aren’t living up to our expectations. They should be working, they should fix up their house, they shouldn’t eat, drink, smoke so much, they should smile at me and be nice. But, unfortunately many of them have already learned to expect scorn, derision and dirty looks.
My best lesson on this came a few years ago; I was working in a convenience store that was on a road bordering a First Nation’s Reserve. We had your basic grocery needs, and an LCBO (liquor, for you non-Canadians) so we had many customers who couldn’t always get to town shop there. Some of the hard luck cases on the reserve frequented the store so I got to know them and then hear the gossip about them after they left. Crystal was a young girl who didn’t look native and took that further by bleaching her hair blond. It was the poor women’s blonde; yellowed and dried out. She always had on lots of bright blue eye shadow and wore tube tops. I don’t think she had a secure family to go home to but places she could stay. She would take a bus to Toronto and hook for a few weeks then come home and treat her friends until her money was gone.
Dudley (not his real name) was a local good-natured drunk who was always pleasant and seemed cheerful. Some days he would show up with his clothes all rumpled, his long hair in knots but always acted as if everything was just fine. He rode to the store on his rusty old bike and bought two one-litre , gut-rot beers, get two bags and hang one from each handle bar then slowly bike away for his afternoon drinking session.
One day I was coming back from town and saw Crystal and Dudley hitch-hiking. They were walking with some grocery bags, talking and turning to stick out their thumbs when someone drove by. I passed them, pulled over on the shoulder and looked in my rear view. They hadn’t realized someone had stopped yet, they were so used to no one stopping. I started to back up when they noticed me and started running. They got in the car breathless and so happy. Crystal got in the back seat and Dudley sat in the passenger seat. “oh thank you, thanks so much!” They were so appreciative I was embarrassed. When we got back on the road, Dudley said,” Oh, you’re the lady from the store!, I’m sorry, I don’t know your name”
I said, “it’s Monica” and they both went “Oohh…..Monica!”. Dudley said, “Like the angel in “Touched by an Angel”….. I LOVED that show!”
“Oh, me, too!” Crystal repeated, “I loved that show, I wish it was still on” They went on to talk about it while my head spun a bit.
For anyone who doesn’t remember the show, “Touched by an Angel” , it was a sickly sweet , sentimental TV show about an angel here on earth who passed for a mortal but secretly went around performing small miracles to help those having a hard time. It had always been laughable to me but I wasn’t laughing now. Something about that moment really touched me. These two were so used to being vilified and were so put down for their lifestyles but they loved this show of redemption and forgiveness. They just wanted what they rest of us take for granted. They didn’t have expectations, and when something good came along they appreciated it and were happy. They just wanted to have hope.