I find myself catching myself judging these days.   Perhaps I am more aware because I am noticing that I am less inclined to judge others.  Maybe it is because I am more conscious of what is important.  I’m curious about this.

In the past, I had very definitive views on what was right and wrong, classy and cheesy, appropriate and crass, just about everything.  I was sure that I was correct in my judgment.  Today, I am not so sure.

I used a wheelchair at the airport which was a first, and a difficult first, at that.   I knew that realistically, I was unable to walk to the gate at DIA having to go through the security line, get on the train, and walk to the gate, which is at the end of the terminal.  The stress would have added to the challenge, and so, I took my daughter’s advice and had someone assist me.  It helped enormously since I was traveling alone and concerned about my stamina.  Everything worked perfectly.

And so, on my return flight, I decided to get a wheelchair in Manchester, N.H., even though it is a much smaller airport.  And again smooth sailing without a single glitch, until…..  I was sitting there waiting with about three others in chairs, and suddenly noticed that they were gone and no one had come for me.  People were boarding and I knew I had to act fast.  I got up, pulled my carry-on and walked to the plane.  There were already many people in line, and in my distorted speech, I said, “ecu me, ecu me” until I reached the door.  I had walked in front of everyone and no one said a word.  I think, perhaps, they had seen me sitting at the gate in the chair.

At any rate, a tall woman in a beautiful fake fur coat was first in line.  She had really expensive luggage, and I expected her to say something negative……she didn’t.  When I boarded the plane of course, there was no way that I could lift that carry-on up to the bin, in fact, I couldn’t even push the handle in.  Then, she appeared.  She said, “here, I’ll get that.”  And she easily pushed the handle in and swooped the bag into the bin.  She said, “and when we land, I’ll get it down for you, Sweetie.”  She touched my arm.  Wow!  What a nice surprise!

I sat in the window seat in the front row.  I prayed that no one would use the middle seat.  However, at the last-minute, a lively woman, in her 70’s bounced into the seat.  She immediately introduced herself, and I thought, Oh God, this is going to be one long flight!  Then I said to myself, just STOP.  As she began asking me questions, I pointed to my mouth and said I can’t speak.  I can’t even describe the way that sentence sounded, but she said, “Oh, no problem.”

She started to chat with the woman on the aisle, asking her where she lives, how many children she has, where she is going……on and on.  I listened to the woman behind me, telling her seat mate about all the time shares she and her husband own all over the place, and where they live and how perfect it all is.  I am judging.  I’m thinking, “Why are you going on and on like this?”  Who cares?  I feel annoyed.  Even when I could speak, I rarely talk to people on the plane, and then I remember the fabulous conversation I had with a beautiful young mom on the flight to New Hampshire.  It was magic.  This has never happened to me before and I had so enjoyed the lively discussion.  I talked and I wrote and I had so much fun!  Two strangers, one old enough to be her mother, living with a serious illness and the other so full of life, physical beauty and excitement in her life.  Magic happens.

The woman sitting next to me is softly singing about Jesus.  She offers to help me in any way that she can.   She is a good soul.  Still judging, but there has clearly been a shift in my attitude about these people.  I still wonder why the woman behind me is continuing to go on and on about all of their trips and their perfect life, but I consciously soften my opinion and let it go.

The kindness of strangers amazes me.  People have good hearts.  There is a difference between feeling sympathy and pity.  I choose not to differentiate.   (This woman who could do everything herself, no need for help from anyone, suddenly finds herself needing help in some small way, every single day).  I am learning.

When we arrive in Denver my two seat mates wish me luck.  The classy woman in the fake fur gets my bag down for me, smiles and pats my arm again.  The couple that sat behind me, the wife who seemed, in my judgment, to be bragging about all of their trips, helped her husband into the waiting wheelchair, and she followed him up the ramp and into the airport.   She was severely hunched over and did not look at all as I had pictured her.  She didn’t look upbeat and happy.  She carefully watched where she walked, as if she wasn’t sure of herself.

Acceptance and non-judgment are at the top of my list of goals that will elevate my quality of life.  I remind myself of the countless journeys we all are on, and they can be very challenging.  We each have our own way of dealing with these challenges.  Some people enjoy talking about all of their travels, some enjoy singing about Jesus, and some enjoy helping.  Each of us has our own growth opportunities, specifically designed to meet our spiritual needs.

I recommit to suspending judgment the moment I realize I’m doing it.  I shall focus on compassion for others, knowing that they, too, have their own challenges, their own pain and ways of dealing with it.  I will be better and better and better.  Regardless of my physical condition, this goal IS attainable!