This afternoon I was going to a used bookstore where I have $50 in credit from books I sold a month or two ago. I am attending a poetry workshop next weekend, and I offered to find odd books on hobbies for a poetry exercise that I encountered in graduate school and that helped me create my most widely published poem. The poem is about marriage and divorce, and I used fishing lures and tying knots as the metaphor.

The used bookstore is in a very congested part of the city, and we were lucky to find a parking space about five blocks away. As we were crossing at one of the lights, some young men yelled at me, “Hey, can I borrow your poncho?” And then they all laughed, spit food, and slapped each other on the back.

I wasn’t wearing a poncho; it is a handmade purple cover-up that my mom bought me on one of her many trips to Mexico. Nevertheless, I knew the young men were making fun of me.

I know that I’m not a fashion icon. When I was young, I tried very hard to be a unique and fashionable dresser. I often set trends or was way ahead of them. Setting trends and standing out in public is no longer important to me. I am happy I have clean clothes to wear.

When I was back in the car, I said to my husband, I wish I would have said to those young men, “Boy I bet your moms are proud of you for making fun of a woman who is probably her age, who has schizophrenia and often is overcome by symptoms and can’t leave the house.”

I didn’t say anything to those young men. I simply walked by while they laughed and jeered and congratulated themselves on being so funny. The incident made me sad though; it reminded me of how quick we are (within an instant) to judge people without knowing anything at all about them except maybe how they look (the color of their skin, the style of their hair, or how they dress).

As I get ready to eat dinner tonight what I am thinking about is how hard some people’s lives are and how we don’t always recognize or know each other’s struggles. Maybe, someone just lost a loved one. Perhaps, someone just lost their job,  their house, or is in the middle of a divorce, or recently diagnosed with a frightening illness.

I know we see it all the time, “BE KIND.” But how do those two words that are so powerful and said so often they have almost become overlooked play out in our lives? If you find that you easily make fun of people, try to shame them, or make snap judgments about them based on the least significant thing about them (appearance). Maybe you need a refresher course in the meaning of those two simple words. I got one tonight, and I’m not sorry I did.