I learned a long time ago that it is wrong to judge.
I learned a long time ago not to judge someone by their occupation, clothing, vehicle, house, children's behavior, spouse's behavior, etc.etc.
I learned a long time ago that no matter what things seem on the outside, the inside may tell an entirely different story.
I learned all these things a long time ago.
This man, unknown to me or the other 4-year-old teacher, would bring his dog by the playground on their daily walk. The kids of course would all run to the fence and strain their little arms through to pet the dog. The man murmured something about the dog being gentle, but we were very uneasy about the entire situation.
Of course we inquired about this man to some other teachers and they assured us he was safe. In fact, he is a church member there and does handyman work around the property so in all likelihood we would see him again.
And we did. It wasn't every day but pretty often we would see him coming. "Oh, here comes that man and his dog" we would say, hoping they would just walk on by and not stop. The man appeared dishelved and unkempt. It looked like he had on the same clothes every time we saw him, and he walked with a limp. We didn't know where he had come from or what he was doing there. And honestly we just wanted him to leave.
This is my 3rd year to teach at this preschool and for the first 2 years the man and his dog would make their occasional appearances. And after 2 years I only knew his dog's name, not his.
I arrived to work on Tuesday to hear there would be a funeral in the sanctuary that afternoon. "Oh, a church member?" I asked, sure that I would not know the deceased. "Yes. Charlie Crisco," she replied. "I don't guess I know him." "You know the man with the dog?"
I immediately felt a tinge of sadness although I am not sure why, maybe it was a tinge of guilt instead. The rest of the day was buzzing with information that even some fellow church members had never known.
His obituary reads, "One of Jackson's finest...."
You see, the man with the dog wasn't who I thought he was, and my first mistake was to judge him on his outward appearance. My second mistake was to believe my judgment as truth.
In fact, my judgment couldn't have been farther from the truth. This man had been a marine, a police officer, and a lead investigator in a very, very high-profile murder trial. William H. Macy played this man's character in a movie you might remember.
But more important than all of that, he had a health scare years ago and afterwards inviting Jesus in his heart as his Savior.
God showed me (one of) my faults loud and clear this past week. I thought I had learned the "do not judge" life lesson already. I thought I could check that one off the list and move onto something else. Apparently not.
James 4:12 says, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?"