Last Thursday while walking the weekly walk, one of my awesome fellow walkers suggested a little garden detour. "The dahlias are in bloom", she said. Well I am never one to miss out on a dahlia adventure so off we went.
To those of you who don't know, there is a fantastical dahlia garden just east of the giant green house in golden gate park. As we made our way to the blooming works of art, we all spotted a couple standing on the lawn in front of the green house. They looked innocent enough except for the giant gorgeous dahlias they were holding in their hands as they posed for their self-portraits.
"Look", I cried! "Tourists and stolen dahlias!" the walkers and I were rightly outraged. How could someone do that? This is my beautiful city and my beautiful park and my beautiful dahlia garden. They are not to be picked and posed with and left behind in some hotel-room water-glass by the side of the bed. These flowers are meant to be awed over as they lie in their rightful bed, without the evil scissor clipping of tourists!
We walked on towards the garden with indignant rightiousness. The nerve.
But all was forgotten when we came upon the dahlia garden. We were speechless. It truly was amazing. An awesomely spectacular sight of the most vibrant array of colors and textures and beauty. What dahlias lack in smell they make up for tenfold in color and uniqueness. They are simply lovely.
We walked around the circle of color pointing to our favorites and laughing and me taking pictures. When we felt we had gawked enough we started to make our way back to UCSF. As we exited the garden we passed by the dumpster to the side of the lot. And wouldn’t you know it, filling up the dumpster, almost overflowing, were all the dahlias that had recently been trimmed. Beautiful almost perfect dahlias that maybe had a few petals browning or a sad bit of wilting but otherwise impeccable. All at once we realized our mistake.
Oh my goodness I (we) thought. They weren't grubby tourists, they were sweet, nice, dahlia loving people who innocently picked a dahlia from the dumpster to pose for a photo.
Immediately we too started rummaging. Reaching our hands into the dumpster to see what flowers were there. Hoping there might be some big pink ones or the decadent orange colored ones. We wanted them all; we were greedy and excited. I walked away with four: a pink, white, orange and a yellow one.
As we were leaving the dumpster with our arms full of beauty, a walker reminded me just how judgmental we had been.
“I bet all these people think we picked the dahlias.”
I was so super quick to judge the dahlia couple. I had hated them even. I believed that they were defacing the miracle that is golden gate park and I was mad.
It is so interesting to me how easy it was to judge them. It just happened, just like that. I assumed everything about them. I knew that they were tourists. I knew that they were thieves and I knew that they didn't give a damn about my park. Little did I know that I was wrong.
It makes me think about all the other times when people judge so easily. Have you ever seen someone at the gym and judged them because they were either very overweight or very underweight? Have you ever assumed that someone knoshing away at a quarter pounder with cheese was unhealthy and the salad eating slim gal was the picture of health? It is so easy to assume that you know what people are going through. You might think that the overweight person doesn't try or eats too much or has no willpower. You may think that the thin person has a problem, is obsessive or starves herself. You may want to believe that the homeless person is an alcoholic or just doesn't care or let this happen to herself. It's easy to a assume that the parent with the screaming child or the pet owner with the crazy dog is horrible, is a menace and is just not available enough for their ward. But really we have no idea. We really don't. I am going to say it again just to drive the point home. We have no idea. It is impossible to know what someone else is going through at any particular moment.
Does it make us feel better to think that an overweight woman is eating more than us because we can't fathom the idea that she might be trying but not succeeding at losing weight or God forbid she might like her body the way it is. Is it easier to handle a thin woman who has an eating disorder than a thin woman who works her ass off to be thin or a thin woman who was just born that way?
I am not a Buddhist so I am not saying that there should be no judgment in the world. I thank my stars that I have strong judgment when I am faced with a dangerous situation or a difficult dilemma.
This week when you feel the urge to make a snap judgment, take a moment to assess where it's coming from and why it’s so strong. Maybe you want to keep it. Often judgment is there for a reason, it cues us to something. But maybe it’s just your own insecurities or fears or societal norms. And even if it doesn’t change anything, even if you still walk away thinking that person is a nasty tourist dahlia thief, at least you will have learned a little more about yourself.
Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live