For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to abandon our views about them. – Thich Nhat Hanh
I walked into the diner and I scanned the crowd wondering where to sit. I spotted the faux red leather booth, a little jarred that a large, burly, trucker-of-a-man sat opposite the booth I chose. I asked the waitress for a high chair and began unpacking my large backpack, full of diapers, formula, snacks and toys for my 8-month-old son. As I unpacked, I kept my eye on the man sitting across from us. I noticed his dirty sweatpants, his large belly touching the booth table, his long white beard, and bitten fingernails. He was casually reading the paper and slurping coffee.
As I put my son in the high chair, the man looked over. He scanned my son, eyeing his little body up and down. My son waved his arms in the air and presented the man with a huge smile, showing off his newly acquired two bottom teeth. I continued to keep myself busy trying not to show any sort of engagement with this rough-looking person. I could feel the man looking over at us and I began to squirm a bit. Why was he looking at us? I was there by myself, waiting for my husband to finish a doctor’s appointment down the street. I was sitting in a dive diner with my 8-month-old son feeling incredibly vulnerable.
And then… I heard a chuckle. I looked over and the dirty, burly, large man was returning the smile to my son. He, too, was showing off his grin and his 5 broken teeth. I exhaled. My son was entertaining this stranger. He transformed a man, who I had already created a story about, into a carefree human being, laughing and playing peek-a-boo with an 8 month old. My son and this man continued their games of laughter and baby introductions.
He’s a big boy. Look’s like he’s gonna be a hockey player.
I smiled and and responded, “Yah, maybe!” As I said that, I scolded myself.
In the short 8 months that I have known my son I have come to realize that there is no place for judgment and yet I continue to judge. I believed I was protecting my son by creating an invisible fence around our booth. I was protecting him from the stranger sitting across from us. The stranger who I had already created a story about, it went something like this:
He probably lived in a run down home, maybe a hoarder, lonely, scary, yelled at small children as they walked in front of his home laughing on their scooters. He was definitely a smoker, maybe even a drinker. He was a truck driver and picked up hitchhikers along his routes, probably no, most likely, scaring them as well.
I had created this story in the span of one minute, and yet in the span of that one-minute my 8-month-old son had done the opposite. He didn’t create a story. He simply smiled at someone who was sitting across from him. He held no judgment. In fact, he doesn’t even know what the word judge means.