Last weekend, while traveling around Target, I noticed someone following me. He looked like a Target employee. I continued shopping and continued to notice him near me, watching me and my kids. I wondered at first if he was interested in how I managed four children while shopping all by myself, but, after more time passed, I started to wonder whether he suspected me of being a shoplifter. He even got into the checkout line next to ours at the same time we did. He watched our every move. Then, as I approached the doors, he was standing there, next to the security gate, drinking a soda and watching us as we went through. I was upset; I couldn't figure out why he had followed me.
I told my husband about it later. I said, "I'm sure I look frazzled when I'm shopping with all four kids, but, do I look dishonest?" He responded, "The frazzled ones are the ones who shoplift... Plus, look at you." (He totally didn't say this in a mean way.) I was wearing my workout clothes with my hair pulled back - but, I did have lipstick on.
His response didn't make me feel any better.
This experience haunted me for days. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I couldn't get the feelings it aroused out of my heart. I wished that I had approached him and asked him why he was following me. I prepared endless speeches for him, things that I could have and should have said to him.
I realized that I needed to figure out why this experience bothered me so much, and I mean so much. I needed to find a way to put it behind me.
Then, it hit me, I had been judged as being from a lower economic class, and I actually am from a lower economic class. Right now, with my husband's medical resident's salary supporting six people, our family qualifies for every possible government subsidized program that is offered for families living below the poverty level. This experience affected me deeply because he was right about me being a "low-income" individual, but concluded wrong that I would likely also be desperate, and dishonest.
It reminded me in a (much too) powerful way to never. judge. people. around me, even if I think I know all of their circumstances and tendencies. It also taught me to avoid letting other peoples' judgments have power over me, and my happiness.