It’s taken me a little while to get my blog going because I’ve been contemplating how to do it the right way. I’m a perfectionist with everything that I do, my blog included. And then, after having an interesting experience that really got me thinking a couple days ago, I decided that I’ll be using this platform to share what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling about various topics.
So here’s what happened that inspired me to finally start blogging:
I was coming back from our training facility the other day around 4p.m. and stopped at Publix to pick up some groceries. When I got out of my car, a man in his late 30s/ early 40s comes up to me with a pair of jeans in his hand and starts telling me a whole crazy story. He says that he’s been out of jail for five months or so after being locked up for nine years, and that his girlfriend broke up with him and left him out on the street. It was a crazy story. Anyway, then he tells me that he went in the store to buy a $5 chicken meal, but they kicked him out because they thought he was trying to steal.
At this point I ask him if he’s telling me this story because he wants something to eat. He says yes, almost in a relieved way, that he’s really hungry and just wants some food. So I tell him to come inside with me and I’ll buy him something to eat. We’re standing at the deli counter and I ask him what he wants. He says he’d like two pieces of chicken. I was like, “That’s all you want? Look man, if you want something to eat, you need to eat until you’re full. You’re a grown man, I don’t think two pieces of chicken are going to fill you up, so get what you want.” He was really shy and hesitant about asking for more. So I went ahead and ordered him a 20-piece chicken meal with a drink and three sides. While we were waiting, he told me that he has two daughters and was trying to feed them too. When I handed him the food, he was just so thankful and appreciative…he had tears in his eyes. I could tell this man was seriously hungry.
As I was getting ready to drive away, he stopped me and asked for a ride to the McDonald’s down the street. I agreed and while we were driving, he told me his life story, how he wrote two books, and about all that he had been through. At first, it’s easy to believe that someone like this was making the whole story up. But after hearing him speak, I could tell that this was a smart guy who was telling the truth.
He asked me my name and what I do. I kind of laughed and told him that I play for the Miami Dolphins. He was shocked. Then he asked if I could get him some tickets (haha) and I told him tickets are hard to come by! Before he got out of the car, he thanked me profusely and said, “Thank you so much for what you did. You have no idea what this means to me and to my daughters. Just know that you have my full support.”
This experience made me think about what’s wrong with the world we live in today. We tend to judge people by skin color or status or sex or power or how much money they make. If we can come to a point where we realize that none of these things matter as much as people think they do, then this world would be a much better place. We can’t judge people that we don’t know because we have no idea what they’ve been through. And everybody needs a helping hand every now and then.
Yes, this man did tell me that he went to jail for 9 years, and I didn’t ask him what he did because it didn’t matter. He served his time and is trying to make a life for himself. Some people end up in his position for doing something bad and some just get dealt a bad hand. The reality is I didn’t know. And I’m not saying that if somebody commits a horrible crime we should automatically do something to help him or her. But before we judge, we should look deeper, rather than judging the book by its cover. That’s a huge problem with our society, and it’s just not fair.
This interaction reminded me of something that happened when I was young, maybe around 10 years old. I was at a McDonald’s (again a story that involves McDonald’s!) and there was a homeless man there who you could tell was on drugs. He was asking people for money and this lady told him that she wouldn’t give him money, but that she’d buy him some food. He got upset and walked out. So you could tell that he wanted the money for other reasons. But you never know. She took the time to ask.
And what’s what I wish we could all do more of as a society. Get to know people and get to know their story before jumping to conclusions and passing judgment on them. Instead of judging and labeling people, how about we use that same amount of energy and effort to get to know them. I may have helped this man feel a little less hungry and a little less alone the other day, but the truth is, he reminded me of a lesson that was just as – if not more – important. And for that, I too am thankful.