It’s easy to do, to judge a person. Your mind is on your own problems and when you see someone doing something disagreeable – in that moment, in which you’re only presented with a fraction of their life – you make a judgment. I would do that differently. I would never behave like that.
Sometimes, the judgment serves as a welcome distraction. Other times it feels juicy and self-affirming. In some cases, we think the worst because we are paranoid. Mostly, we have no idea what’s really going on.
This was the case for one woman who’s sent a Facebook post viral about her experience.
Megan Orr Burnside in the US said, years ago, when she saw a mother fighting with her child at a petrol station, she called the police out of fear for the child. Not once, did she consider helping the mother.
“We saw a woman with a boy of about 10 years old, struggling to get him in the car,” her Facebook post reads. “He was screaming and she was so angry and frustrated. We watched her get him in the car and there was a lot of physical fighting in the car. It looked like she was hitting him as well, so we called the police.”
“They came and we left. We then got a call and they told us that the boy was autistic and she really struggled with him, and she had even asked for the police’s help in the past to deal with him because he was very violent. They said they have been helping her and she’s doing the best she can.”
The lesson, she said, was a valuable one.
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The situation came full circle a couple of weeks ago when Burnside was in the supermarket and saw another mother in a similar state of frustration.
“One toddler boy was fussing and the other boy was asking his mother to buy things. She was so angry and explosive at both of them, the whole store was aware of them. People stood there and watched them struggle in the line,” her Facebook post reads.
“I walked over to talk to the little boy and put my hand on his foot. He calmed down. The mother was so frazzled and apologised.”
“I told her I understood what it’s like to be overwhelmed. I told her she was a good mum. I told her everything was going to be okay. She cried, guys. She CRIED as everyone else watched her struggle with her burden. Years earlier I would have been holding my cell phone ready, watching to see if she did anything that I should report.”
Why is Burnside sharing the story now? Because one of her friends has recently been reported to child services. This time, she knows there’s more to the story.
“When authorities were called by someone no doubt thinking they were ‘helping’, my friend was very sick in bed with a respiratory infection,” her post reads.
“I don’t know what this person observed that they thought was a problem. Maybe her kids were running around without parental supervision? Maybe a parent wasn’t feeding them so they were foraging for themselves? I am sad that the person who called her in didn’t ask how they could HELP HER.”
All of us have in Burnside’s position in every one of these three anecdotes. We’ve been the judges. We’ve been the helpers. And we’ve watched in frustration as someone is falsely accused of something they didn’t do.
The one that feels the best and that is most conducive of change, is the helping option. Absolutely, emergency and government services play a crucial role in keeping people safe. But, particularly when it comes to dealing with children, there are unique challenges that we’d all do best to consider, before jumping to conclusions.
“When people are overwhelmed they need help, not condemnation. I know I have been guilty for doing this very thing and I see clearly how I probably perpetuated the problem instead of helping to uplift and assist others,” Burnside’s post concludes.
What a beautiful message to go viral.