Judging Hearts

“She looks mean.”

“He acts too holy”

“They must be bad parents”

“He’s a jerk”

“She’s too harsh”

“They are violent people”

“That man is a loser because he’s not working”

Have you ever seen the smiles of people who have such joy in giving? The neighbor who comes with homemade chicken noodle soup, or another who brings fresh strawberries to your door, or the ghost who brings in your trash cans, and you’re never quite sure who to thank. Could it be the military vet next door, the retired handyman across the street or the firefighter down the block?

They never expect anything in return and give only a wry smile when asked if they brought the gift or did the kind deed; they don’t answer, and if they did, they’d deny it and probably not pass a polygraph test. You just have to wonder how those kind-hearted people acquired that gift of giving and servitude.

And have you noticed that in some demographics, giving is a way of life, while in others, it is an obligation — I invited you to lunch, so now you feel obligated to invite me to lunch and return the favor?

My late friend, Dianne raised 8 children on a limited income, yet she and her husband homeschooled, supported many church missions and gave back to the community. When people would try to give her gifts, she would always say, “I don’t want you to pay me back. Do it for the next person who needs it.” Somehow, she seemed to thrive on giving. And then there was my own mother who always seemed to want to feed anyone who came to visit. And when the visitor kindly and politely said, “No thank you, I’m not hungry,” her reply was, “I’m not giving it to you because you’re hungry. I’m giving it to you because I care about you.”

Many individuals are generous, especially when there are accidents or natural disasters, but during economic hard times, it seems we have lost that value. Many today are more concerned about the acquisition of material, worldly things, and self-indulgence, and seem to view those in need as being there as a result of the choices they have made. For many trying to meet the basic living necessities — food, healthcare and housing — it seems there is a loss of empathy in caring, and the idea of giving has become institutionalized and impersonal.

We often make rash decisions based on a person’s financial status – it is a sign of weakness and quite humbling to have to ask for help.  We judge hearts without getting to know the person behind the job, the volunteer activity, race, religion or appearance.

I worry that the uncaring trend will continue and rather than turning to help each other, we will look for scapegoats out of selfishness, worried that providing for those in need, even temporarily, will somehow deny us something materially. And that the mentality of our hard-heartedness will preclude us from getting to know others based solely on our limited ability to read the heart behind the person.

Let us not limit our minds and niche people on the basis of the city, town or country they come from, the religion they belong to and the profession they choose for themselves. It is not just unfair to them but also to us. It limits our learning from the people we meet and the new perspective that they can bring. If we do misunderstand the heart of another, open a dialogue and unearth their humanness-you may even find your own. At the end of the day do remember, judging a person does not define who they are but it certainly defines who we are.