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.