I tend to use the word “people” on this blog to preface a broad generalization about the actions of humans… mostly negative. But today… today I want to talk about people from the view of someone trying to undemonize these… people. Today’s quest is seeking understanding.
When I look at people I perceive them differently from what others perceive. I pick and choose who I trust and respect with very little regard to general social perceptions and so have acquired quite the strange friend group. I’m glad I do. It puts me in a position to understand that you can’t understand people, through certain means. Confused yet? Here we go.
Last year in AP Bio, following a mass exodus of classmates from aforementioned class, I ended up sitting by one of those people that I’d come to like in my special way. She was cheerful, always smiling, nice to everybody… she was the only person who I could compare my test grades to with ease, because hers matched mine most of the time. She was a sister, she watched as her brother premiered his first acting spot in a play, she was generous, …she bought me cookies at said play. Heard enough? Take that image of her in your head and align it with this one. She was also pregnant.
Let’s just think about it, pregnant teenage girl in high school, that description along makes an image form in your head, doesn’t it? And image with the hint of “likely” characteristics? The girl who sat directly across from me in AP bio, every day until she had her child, was one of the very last people you’d expect to be grouped in that category. But she was.
Let’s look at another.
8th grade I was assigned two girls to tutor. They had been failing their TAKS tests and such and needed help. One stayed for a while, halfheartedly did some stuff when asked, didn’t do much else. The other, after some bantering persuasion of course, took the practice TAKS test I handed her, and put forth quite the significant amount of effort. We worked on problems, went over concepts, and even arranged to meet afterschool to work on things. The teachers gave me a calculator for my “dedication”, she passed her TAKS test. We even became something like friends, she gave me a couple “roses” with chocolate inside the “flower” for Valentine’s day. I never have found the heart to open up the “flowers” to get at the chocolate.
Fast forward some years. She finds me in high school, visits me sometimes at lunch, gives me her number multiple times (every time it changes), at one point in time we attempt to find time to just… hanging out. She’s develops awesome relationships with all her teachers, she loves all her friends, she’s another one of those people that it’s impossible not to like. She works a job on the side and spends most of her free time there, at the cleaners.
February 14th, she walks into a bank and hands the teller a note that says she has a bomb and a gun. Balance those images in your head. I dare you. What do you think of when you hear the words ”bank robber”? What sort of assumptions do you start to make?
These are people I have faith in and I know this: That whatever situation led my friend to walk into that bank, I have full faith that her decision fit her circumstances. Because I had met her first as simply another human being, the term “bank robber” doesn’t add anything more to my knowledge of her. There were no assumptions attached to that phrase any more, and so I’ve learned. I can’t make “those assumptions” when I hear “bank robber”, I can’t make “those assumptions” when I here “pregnant teenager”. I’m GLAD I can’t, I’m glad life has thrown these things into my face. Nobody should be able to. You can’t understand people through groups they’re categorized with. Because everyone in that group has a singularly unique reason for being there.
If you wish to understand them, get the story as they can tell it. That’s it.