“I heard that your dad is a trash picker,” said the blond-haired twit with braces, the tone in her voice echoed with empathy.
“My dad wears a suit and a tie to work just like yours,” I spat back at the girl who I “thought” was my friend. Turns out she was a “frenemy’: a person who acts as your friend but also takes the time to strike as your very worst enemy.
We were supposed to be running a mile in gym class and though I usually was the first one to hit the track, I was contemplating running home. Away from having to admit to everyone once again that my dad was a garbage man.
I heard her relay the information across the track to another girl as I stared down at my gym shoes, embarrassment slapped all over my face by girls who aim to hurt.
“Don’t believe what she says,” said the other girl. “Her dad is just a guy who picks up our trash for a living.”
I still wish she had said that more quietly.
Those words stung me. Now, thinking back, the way I treated my father for choosing to be a garbage man must have stung him even more.
It is hard to admit, but when I was growing up, I was absolutely mortified by my father’s occupation. I shrunk low in my seat when it came time to talk about what my dad did for a living. I cringed at my father’s dirty hands, covered with calluses that were a sign of his hard work, whenever he tried to hold mine.
My last post was about how we can grow to be cowards of what other people think. It is a curse that follows us throughout elementary school, tags along like that annoying friend in middle school and gets us the worst in high school. It dominates who we will be friends with. It hinders us from our full potential. We fear the judgment that seemingly lurks at every corner. Threatening to grasp up the discerning looks and somber sighs from others. And although we may reach a point where the judgment of others no longer gets the best of us, where we are unapologetic about we are, we sometimes forget that judgment is a double-sided coin.
We need to learn a lesson that we may have forgotten to pay attention to in kindergarten.
Be nice to your parents. Be nice to strangers. Don’t just stare at someone’s shoes, imagine being in them. Then change your mind about that person. Stop assuming that you know a person because you have heard the rumors, the stories. Be the bigger person. Talk to that individual who seems like they are having a hard day. Reach out a hand. What is the harm?
My favorite quotation, one that I choose to live by, states simply, “There is not anyone you cannot love after hearing their story.” But, oh, how it must hurt when someone does not want to hear our story. When Someone Would Prefer To Judge Us and Move On Before They Even Take The Time To Learn Our Name. It is as if we come to Show-and-Tell Day at school but the teacher never acknowledges our raised hand. Our classmates never want call upon us to show. Or To Tell.
I like to picture a world where we never stop trading stories; as if they were Silly Bands or Pokemon cards. Where we take the time to stop in this busy life to simply hear someone else speak of passion and the greatest love that they have ever known.
And I would love for people to sit with my father and hear him read his story. One of Strength. Compassion. Sacrifice. Hard Work. Love. The Best Kind Of Story. A Favorite Bedtime Story.
It’s very simple. It’s that whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” lesson. We need to not let the things we have heard about a person be what keeps us from listening to their own “once upon a time.”
And if those nasty “frenemies” of mine ever come across this post I want to make sure that there is a shout out to them. It took a while, but I embraced my father’s occupation after I got over myself and the harsh words of middle school girls. And what came out of it? I met the hardest working man that I will ever encounter in my life. I became closer with a guy who gave me the world on a platter, over and over, every single day. I got to hold the hand of a hero whose callused hands symbolize a role model that I can only hope to live up to one day.
No, my dad never wore a suit and tie to work. Yes, my dad was a garbage man for all of my childhood. No, I would not have had it any other way.