There wasn’t anything unusual about the afternoon. In the desert, there is little evidence that seasons ever change. Leaves don’t change from green to brown to yellow, people wear flip-flops year round and rain in more likely to appear in your dreams. The clock registered 2:00 p.m. on my car’s dashboard and I could feel the sun blaring into my driver side window as loud as the radio in my car. There were errands to complete before I picked up my daughter from school. My mind buzzed about my to-do list and all of the items that needed to be checked off. Just as I tried to make it through the stoplight, it flashed red. I stopped.
My eyes gravitated toward the right side of the road. There were a line of about ten women, two police officers, and a black truck that accessorized the normally empty side. I noticed that the women were wearing black and white striped jumpers and were picking up trash in the area. A sign appeared next to them, reading “Prisoners Working.” I paid closer attention to all of them. One women had a perfect bun in her hair, another looked a little too thin, and one seem to be eager to complete her task of picking up white pieces of paper on her side of the road. They all looked to be in their mid-thirties.
I couldn’t linger too long because within about two minutes the red light turned green. Their faces made an impression. I thought to myself, “What is their story? How did they lose their way? Would they ever have the chance to turn their lives in another direction?” And this scene made me think about the assumptions we make about people. Were these women “criminals?” If we dug deeper, would the lines be so black and white? The questions were something that I knew I wouldn’t be able to ever answer. But it made me ponder the idea of absolutes and what we assume. How many times do we believe or make up our minds about a situation by speculating? I know I’ve been guilty of doing this many times only to later realize my assumptions were quite wrong.
Black and white. Not really. It never is.
A good reminder of how fortunate we are, and that nothing is as simple as it appears. We never know what moment may have changed the course of a life. We should never assume.
How true–we never really know the whole story. I do wonder what landed them in that situation…desperation, probably.
I learned a long time ago that nothing is black or white. There are always so many gray areas.
It never is really black and white…there are so many shades of grey.
We absolutely never know the whole story. It’s so easy to make assumptions or judgements based on what we see because it’s easy – it makes it easy for me to categorize things in my mind and make sense of the world. But you’re absolutely right – nothing is every as simple as it seems. Thanks for the reminder to look a bit deeper under the surface. Happy Saturday (and visiting from SITS!)
there but by the grace of God go we. It could have been something drastic, it could be a series of unfortunate events, it could have been so many things. It is good to be compassionate and offer a silent prayer even as we see into faces like those. Thoughtful of you to even consider them.
I was mortified when my children made a negative assumption about a similar scene while we were driving. I went into a much too long winded lecture about “walking a mile in their shoes” and “be kinder than necessary because everyone is fighting their own private battle” etc., etc., etc. I think I frightened my kids into every making a snap judgement again. And then, if forced me to take a look at myself and how I might have contributed to their false and unkind impression. Sometimes, the truth hurts.
Your post reminded me of this book, a collection of short memoir stories written by women prisoners (collected/edited by Wally Lamb):
I think I was on the other end, worried about being judged by others. I was very self conscious when I went to college, as someone whose background didn’t quite fit in with my very wealthy classmates at an elite New England private school. I used to pray that others would see beyond the superficialities of my background and see the good in me. A friend of mine had a mother who was very judgmental, and that was hard, and ironic. I thought, here I am, with less money and “culture” than she and yet I am the one acting with any class.
Well written. The back stories would certainly lift those women from the impressions of black and white, but it may take black and white to deliver them back to living in a world of grey. – Renee