As we do most days before I ride, mom and I headed to the local airpark the other day for lunch and a walk. Lunch is usually fast food from a local drive-thru. I do my best to order the healthiest options, but she gets more of a pass than I do.
The long narrow parking lot at the airpark parallels the 2,200-foot runway. There’s a half-dozen picnic tables where families, business people, and even teens can enjoy lunch while watching small planes in action. Most days there’s a handful of cars aimed directly west watching the planes takeoff and land from north to south.
Children leave their parents to climb the short chain-link fence and get a better view, while their moms scurry to setup lunch at the picnic tables. There might be one or two aviation buffs in pickup trucks listening to scanners as they judge the quality of each landing. The cars with tinted windows, peeling Sublime stickers on the rear bumper, and smell like burning weed carry teenagers who’ve released themselves on their own recognizance from the high school a half-mile away.
The airport sits on a plateau a couple hundred feet above town, so the onshore wind is strong. Mom and I prefer to stay in the car and eat while we listen to The World on public radio. After mom’s food settles, we get out and walk the length of the parking lot a couple of times. It’s her daily workout.
One day last week, toward the end of our first lap, I saw a woman with a long brown ponytail, maybe in her 30s, sitting on a picnic table smoking a cigarette. She was all alone. I said hello as we passed, and she nodded without speaking. I didn’t think much of it. My only thought was that she looked old enough to know the dangers of cigarettes. When mom and I returned for our second lap, the woman on the table stood up and began walking toward a well-worn Jeep Cherokee. It was then I noticed she was pregnant.
I probably rushed to ten different judgments in just a few seconds, not the least of which was that I labeled her a bad person — I didn’t want to, but I did. She turned back as she opened the Jeep door and I could see in her face that she could see me judging her. It was a poignant moment.
When I rode my bike past the airpark later that day, I relived that moment of poignancy. She looked ashamed to be seen smoking while pregnant, and I felt sinful for judging her without knowing the whole story. And I’m certain there was a story far behind that moment.
Maybe it was just one cigarette. Maybe she’s had a healthy pregnancy, but had a stressful day and decided to have just one. Maybe she smokes 12 a day — maybe 20. Maybe she’s in an abusive relationship and smoking is a momentary refuge. Maybe she’s so stricken by the addiction of smoking that she can’t quit no matter how hard she’s tried. Maybe she has no support system — for the smoking or for the pregnancy. I’ll never know any of that.
The only thing I know for certain is that I was quick to judge and I shouldn’t have been. I’ve never walked a single step in her shoes. But then, I’ve never walked a single step in anyone’s but mine. My lesson from the thought-chew that afternoon was to stay in my own lane — both on the road and in life.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
Mph Avg: 15.6
Seat Time: 11 hours 03 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Public Image Limited. Enjoy…
6 thoughts on “No Rush To Judge…”
I love airports. they are often the quietest, most peaceful places when planes are not using them. For me, as a pilot, they can be a shelter from a storm, or an entrance to wonderland. As for the woman, I may have spoken to her, after all you had your mom and maybe a dog with you to open that doorway, and maybe gotten the answer to all your questions.
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I love airports too, and I think I’ve told you before, I refer to this place as the land of breaking minimums.
No, I wouldn’t want to reach out to her. I’m not sure I’d have anything to contribute and I’m not sure how it would have impacted my mom had I tried. My mom lives in her own little world these days, and that might have disturbed her.
As always, Doc, thank you very much for taking the time!
The better we get at noticing our judgments and letting them go, the more peaceful our world becomes as we remember we are just walking each other home. Sending love.
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Thank you, very much, for taking the time.
The first thing I ask of myself each morning in contemplative prayer, is not to be judgmental. I usually screw it up by 8 AM, but I keep trying…
Corey was just talking about not to prejudge, especially with his patient population. Veterans with substance abuse/behavioral mental health. Until criteria and assessment is made, then they really understand how to treat and care. We all need to be more caring,not knowing what people have going between the ears and heart.
Thank you for this essay/composition.
Much Love, Always
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