Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged.
That bible verse, found in the book of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 1, is without a doubt one of the most well known verses in scripture. I also happen to believe it is one of the key pillars of basic Christian faith. By my reckoning, it goes hand in hand with the Golden Rule. Bottom line, if you want to be a good Christian, you have to be ready to give people the benefit of the doubt. And not just some people. Basically all people. I mean, close examination of the scripture itself reveals that it doesn’t seem to come with any caveats or asterisks. It just is what it is.
Which brings me to my current conundrum.
At least once a year, a old dilapidated school bus will pull into our Walmart parking lot and take up residence for some undetermined amount of time. The bus itself is no longer the property of any educational institution in America. Not even third world bus lines would give this rust bucket a second look. Inside this bus is a ragtag band of…pick your favorite moniker; gypsies, hippies, soap-retardant sociology experiments. Whatever your name for them, they come to town, emerge, and quickly lay claim to the small corners of land adjacent to both major entrances to Walmart, as well as the main entrance to the Safeway shopping center. From these vantage points, they then attempt to raise funds by singing incoherently (at least to the passing traffic), dancing and waving ludicrous signs that spout nonsensical slogans that were already on their way out of pop-culture relevance for being cliche in the 1960’s.
And the second they arrive, I will admit, my judge-o-meter starts pinging off the charts. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I judge their clothes, I judge their lack of cleanliness, I judge their hippidy-dippidy mode of transportation that causes me to feel like I’m pulling into a swap meet for the down-on-their-luck instead of a major national retail store. (Wait, it IS Walmart. So to be fair, the swap meet thing might have been on my mind at least a little bit already before they arrived.) And most of all, I judge their intentions.
Then I start to feel guilty.
But then I get angry that I’m feeling guilty. These people have basically come in and stolen prime real estate from the regular stream of panhandlers, beggars and homeless folks who have shown much more moxie over the last eight months than these interlopers by braving the brunt of a vicious Arizona summer. In all honesty, those people were making me feel guilty first and really, their signs telling of personal tragedy seem a little more deserving of said guilt. I mean, c’mon, I only have so much guilt to go around.
Once I have this realization, all traces of my good will disappear and I find myself slightly simmering with anger. What’s up with these ne’er-do-wells anyway? (On the other hand, I rarely get to use the hyphenated word ne’er-do-wells much, and so if nothing else, I do appreciate them giving me that. Anyway…back to my other stream of thought.) They look perfectly healthy. Why don’t they go get a job?
As I think these thoughts to myself, a couple of notions enter my brain. One; Good Gosh, I’m now old enough that I can legitimately sound like the Grumpy Old Man character from the 80’s era Saturday Night Live without expressly trying, and two; You’re judging!
AHHHHH!!!! I can’t be serious. How am I not supposed to judge these people? I mean, seriously, is thinking to myself, “Wash your *&@! hair once in while,” really being judgmental?
Okay, fine. And I know I’m not supposed to think curse words even if I don’t say them out loud. But what am I supposed to do?
I suppose I could try and see life from their point of view.
Well…I can’t. I’m sorry but it’s just flat impossible.
So I try visualizing what their day to day lives must be like and this exercise leads me to another of the seven deadly sins, jealousy. (By the way, is judging one of the seven deadly sins? I don’t think it is by itself. But I don’t think it would take much of an argument to lump it in with pride so we’ll go with it.) These people have probably seen more of the world than I ever will. And since I am always day-dreaming about the travels I want to take, suddenly their existence takes on a romanticism that I can’t explain.
Until of course I realize that all of these places and cultures are probably being experienced inside a giant grime and filth covered petri dish filled with vast hordes of fleas and STDs. Suddenly, all of the romanticism is gone and I’m once again disgusted by them. AAANNNDDDD here we are back at the Gate of Hell entitled Unrighteous Judgement. Man this sucks!
All of these thoughts were circling my brain as I entered the Walmart parking lot for the third time this past Saturday. (Man, I hate that store. Why can’t they just help me and have someone follow me around and politely remind me of all the things I need to get the first time I’m there so I don’t have to go back repeatedly on a Saturday. The day when every single person in Graham county decides to come, grab a shopping cart that they don’t need, park it in the middle of the nearest aisle and settle in for the long haul as if they are in line for concert tickets that are never going to go on sale.) Anyway, as I pulled in, I saw one of these individuals standing on the corner dancing around smiling while holding a sign that read, “All We Need Is Love.”
“Yeah, uh-huh, love and my spare change,” I thought grumpily. Because last I checked, love was not going to buy them a drop of gasoline to get that hunk of scrap metal back on the road when they were done with their “winter of love” here in the Safford Walmart parking lot.
Then just as quickly I thought, “*&!@ IT!!!” There’s another demerit for judging again. And a second demerit for thinking that curse word. If there is any kind of accounting system when it comes to our final resting place in the afterlife, these people are screwing me.”
Regardless, I then determined that to cover myself, I would try to be judgement free and provide what spare change remained after my visit to Walmart to the girl with the sign that reminded of me of The Beatles song that I truly detest.
Except, when I got into Walmart, I discovered that Walmart doesn’t carry single Thank You cards anymore. Are You Kidding?!?!?! They had a birthday card with two animated naked butts on it with some line about expecting a crack about your age or some such nonsense, but not one single Thank You card that didn’t come in a package of 10 or more. I HATE Walmart!
Nonetheless, the upshot of the thank you card fiasco was that I had forgotten all about the girl with the sign. To be honest, I don’t remember if she was even there anymore by the time I left…or if I even left by the same exit. I just was so frustrated that I can get birthday cards for a dog, but not an individual thank you card that I forgot all about her.
So I didn’t give her my spare change. And I honestly can’t even tell you this morning if I feel guilty about it or not. In retrospect, I don’t know what that says about me or my devotion to Christian beliefs.
But either way, there’s one thing I am sure of. I don’t need to worry about what any of you who might be reading this are thinking. Because if you are now thinking of me negatively, then HA!!! You’re just as guilty of judging as I am…
…Except now I’m judging you and them. *&!@ IT!!! I need these people to move on soon. Between my unholy judgments and the mental cursing, I’m not sure my Eternal Soul Destination ledger can take much more.