When I was a child living in Nebraska my parents used to say, “Don’t judge a person ‘til you’ve walked in their moccasins” (we lived among the Sioux). The philosophy stuck. When our children were young and would complain at the dinner table regarding the behavior of various classmates at school that day my frequent response was, “Well, you don’t know what difficulties might be going on in their life.”
One memorable evening our eldest son responded with, “Mom! You always say that. Why can’t you just say, ‘Wow! What a snot?” We laughed so hard our dinner went down our chins.
Of course there are times we simply need to support one another and commiserate when people have been treated badly. But last night I was reminded of moccasins.
We attended the Christmas concert in which our granddaughter was singing. There was a guitar band included in the program. My daughter told me that the mother of the guitar teacher has been in a coma since he was 3 years old! He is now in his mid 20’s. Pictures of what that must be like have been wafting though my mind ever since. What a sad situation. I hope people give grace to those family members when they are short-tempered from time to time.
Yet this young man is bringing music and therefore joy into the lives of the twenty teenagers learning to play and perform guitar. The sadness of the shape of his moccasins does not define his life. I’m proud of him and I don’t even know him!
I remember another story I read one time about a family enjoying a camping trip. They set up their camp site and the adolescent kids meandered next door to say hello to the woman sitting at the picnic table. She was harsh in her response and told them to go away. They were hurt and retuned to tell their parents about it.
As evening approached they noticed their neighbor hadn’t moved from her seat at the table. The mom went to speak with her. Her gentleness drew out the truth: the neighbor’s husband had died in the trailer that morning and she was frozen in grief, having no idea what to do next.
Not everyone who is rude has a good reason, but we never know the back story so it’s a good idea to remember there could be one – and it could be something we are deeply thankful is not our story!