Open Letter to My Children: Please Don’t Judge by Jori Lichtman
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
It was an innocent comment. You didn’t mean anything by it. You’re just 9 years old. Mature and wise beyond your years, yes. But still 9. I bumped into an old friend at the park. She was with her husband and their very busy three-and-a-half-year-old toddler. The boy was on the move…as any toddler would be in the green open spaces of a lovely park on a sunny Saturday afternoon. While the dad was assuming most of the running-after-busy-toddler duties, my friend and I were chatting and catching up. A nice meet-up in the middle of a baseball diamond – and then it was time to go.
On our way home, you commented: “That mom, your friend, she’s kind of lazy. The dad was the only one running after the kid.” You’re observant and notice things like this, so I wasn’t surprised. But your words triggered something in me. I probably pounced too hard – and I’m sorry for that – but I needed you to understand. This time. And every time.
Please don’t judge her.
Please don’t judge her. You don’t know her story. I don’t either. You don’t know if she was up all night sick from chemo treatments and gathered whatever energy she had to just get to the park for some fresh air with her family – and that’s why daddy was on toddler duty. You don’t know if she just twisted her ankle helping her elderly parent down the stairs. You don’t know if her and her husband simply switch days to be “on” – he gets Saturday, she takes Sunday.
The truth is, her ankle is likely just fine and she probably isn’t fighting for her life. She probably just felt like chatting with an old friend. But next time, those could be the battles you throw your judgement upon. You just don’t know. WE just don’t know. So, please think kind thoughts. Please don’t judge.
Of course, I’m not mad at you for saying what you said. How could I be? I’ve certainly made harsher than necessary judgements I wish I could take back. We all have. Your brain is still growing, you’re learning every day. You’re processing the world around you, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. And as your mom, I’m doing my best to show you (and remind myself each day) how to bring light into this world each of those days. In the grocery store, at the park, in the classroom. We’re in this together. We’ll learn together. We’ll fall together. We’ll get up together.
I may not be the mom who can volunteer on every school trip, or the mom who bakes 7-layer rainbow cakes from scratch. But I am that mom who has a simple goal: I want my children – and the adults will they one day become – to see people in the Light of Love. To think twice before uttering harsh words (aloud or in your head), or jumping to conclusions. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To forgive because holding onto hurt only causes you pain.
Because we just never know.
There is quite enough hurt, hate, and unkind voices in this world. I get it – in a way, it’s easier to critique or to find fault. To draw swift conclusions, sometimes to make ourselves feel better. In fact, many years ago, I almost lost a dear friend because I was a critic when I should have been kind. I’m grateful she has a forgiving heart.
One day, you’ll have a colleague who isn’t the friendliest, a friend who takes days to return phone calls or texts. An acquaintance who seems to give you the cold shoulder.
People make mistakes. People aren’t defined by one moment. People have baggage you know nothing about (even the ones with smiles on their faces most of the time). People are human.
Kids, when these moments cross your path, please be the Light. Be kind. Please don’t judge.
Because we just never know.
Jori Lichtman is a 2015 Momentum Trip Participant with the Village Shul.