Recently, I had to renew my driver’s license. Just the thought of going to the DMV makes me on edge. I checked the list of forms I needed to bring and grumbled to myself about how, even though I’ve got everything on the list, they’ll probably find something that I’m missing. That’s just how they are, I thought.
On the way, I stopped for gas. I inserted my debit card, entered my pin, choose my fuel, and I squeezed the handle, but no gas. I tried again, and …nothing.
The man at the next pump must have noticed my struggle, for he stepped over the mini-median and asked, “Need some help, hon?”
“This pump is not working for some reason,” I said, trying to ignore his condescending tone.
He took one look at the pump and said, “Oh, sweetie, you have to pay first.”
“I did,” I said, trying to lower the rise in my voice. “I put my card in.”
I could tell he didn’t believe me. He told me that after I insert my card, I have to choose the fuel. He told me that sometimes I have to squeeze the handle a couple of times for it to work. He asked me if I wanted him to do it for me.
I reassured him over and over that I had done all of those things. I tried to convince him that I knew what I was doing; that I wasn’t an idiot.
He didn’t listen.
Finally, I cancelled the transaction, moved to another pump, and it worked perfectly. Mr. Macho didn’t notice.
By the time my tank was full and I was on my way to the DMV, I was fuming. The more I thought about how that guy treated me, the angrier I got. He never saw me for who I am. I’m sure that because I’m a woman, he assumed that I was doing something wrong at the gas pump. He never listened to me or gave me the benefit of the doubt. I seriously wanted to get in his bearded face… or at least dribble some unleaded on his leather uppers.
It doesn’t feel good to be misunderstood.
I just had this talk with my daughter after she came home complaining about a substitute teacher. The teacher came in the room assuming that the kids would be disrespectful and disobedient. The kids assumed that the sub wouldn’t know the routine. Neither group gave the other a chance… and it was a long, frustrating day.
I pulled into the parking space of the DMV and the irony hit me like a ton of bricks. I certainly wasn’t giving the DMV workers the benefit of the doubt. I was expecting them to be grumpy and impatient, just like the man at the gas pump expected me to know nothing. Just like I assumed that he treated me that way because I’m a woman.
Why is it so difficult to give each other the benefit of the doubt? Why do we let stereotypes blind us; preventing us from really seeing?
Maybe it’s time stop taking up and running with our pre-conceived notions:
Not all middleschoolers are disrespectful. Give them a break.
Not all women are idiots with machines. Give them some respect.
Not all men are sexist. Give them patience.
Not all DMV workers are out to get you. Give the benefit of the doubt.
It’s time to give more.
Lord, give us humility to see, listen, and love.