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Consider life before you judge

Jacqueline Y. Smart (EdD '00) is author of "What Makes A Bully?" and writes a blog on bullying that is published regularly in the Savannah Morning News. This entry challenges us to see others with empathy, compassion and acceptance.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Have you ever wondered about the life experiences of other people who look different than you?

When we meet someone for the first time, we prejudge and lump them accordingly. We fail to take into consideration their life story. What made them into the human they have become?

Many years ago, I went to see a live performance of a Christian play at a local church. While standing in line to enter the theater, there was a man dressed in ragged clothing, dirty, holding a cup and asking for money or food.

Sadly, I prejudged that man. Sitting in the theater happily watching the play, a man appeared on stage wearing ragged clothing and he was filthy dirty. As I looked closer, I realized it was the same man standing outside ofthe theater begging for food. He played the role of Jesus.

We never know what people have had to deal with through their life's journey. Pain doesn't always show through the nicely dressed person wearing a big smile.

Some of us may prejudge, solely because of outer appearances. Do we clutch our wallets and double-lock our car doors when we see certain people walking our directions? Are we afraid to have eye contact and to say hello to strangers?

Why do so many young males commit crimes and die from suicide? What led them to give up and feel their lives are meaningless? Have we played a role in their actions?

We must consider the story of others, even more so, in this topsy-turvy world that we live in today. So, before you look down your beautiful nose at someone else, criticize them or have harsh thoughts and words, stop and think.

We should have empathy, and show compassion and acceptance of others who look different than us.

Consider these definitions:
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another, of either the past or present, without having the feelings, thoughts and experiences fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Acceptance: the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.

Jacqueline Y. Smart is a middle school teacher and has been employed with the Savannah-Chatham school system since 2000. She has earned her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Cambridge College School of Education. She is the author of "What Makes A Bully?"