First Impressions, Assumptions & Empathy

A real story that happened about a year ago.

I was in the checkout line at a local grocery store. Just ahead of me were two women. Both were Black and in their late twenties or so. As one shushed the toddler in her cart, the other received a call on her new and shiny smartphone. I happened to glance over and noticed that the caller ID said “County Detention Center.” This woman proceeded to have a phone conversation with someone she obviously knew while fishing around in her purse beside her infant’s carseat. She went to pay for her $100+ grocery bill with her EBT card, just as the other woman had paid for her food with old-school paper food stamps. As they left and the cashier began to ring me up, a few thoughts went through my head.

On first sight, I could have easily assumed some things about these two women.

I could have thought: “Just another couple of unwed mothers, living off government handouts while their baby-daddies serve time. They even have the latest technology and are definitely not being frugal about the food they buy. What kind of dumb decisions did they each make to end up here? It serves them right; what goes around, comes around. They obviously can’t manage even the simple tasks of basic adulthood.”

However, this story―so easily made up in my head—could be miles from the truth.

Who am I to make a couple observations and pass judgment so readily on my fellow human beings, my neighbors?

I have no way of knowing these things, yet judgement is so quick in coming.


Instead of assuming these things and letting them affect my interaction with these two women, I quickly checked my assumptions and looked at things through a different perspective.

I could have been annoyed when one of them swiped her card wrong, leading to yet another delay to my “quick” supermarket run.

I could have rolled my eyes when she hurriedly apologized.

I could have bemoaned the slow cashiers and the small number of open lanes.

But instead, I simply smiled at her and said it was no problem.


I have no way of knowing the lives of these two women.

Maybe they did make dumb choices. Maybe neither of them were ever given many tools, any life skills training. Most likely, our current governmental and cultural systems hadn’t afforded them with many opportunities to learn those skills.

And what kind of of Christian — what kind of decent human being — would I be if I were to think that they deserve their “predicament” and that I had no obligation at all to help them out of it?

Instead of jumping to conclusions and blowing them off, I was able to have compassion and believe the best about them.

All it took was a minute to check my assumptions and the small effort to smile with a patient attitude.

Will you join me in challenging assumptions and prejudices, and instead choosing to believe the best in people?


This is part 7 of a 52-week writing challenge in which I am participating. Thanks for reading!


Written by Andy Blake. Edited by The Revoluzionne Team.


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