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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Have You Been Mislabeled?

One of my all-time favorite activities to do with Jason is to visit the Goodwill Pound Store.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with what that is, allow me to explain.   The Goodwill Pound Store is a Goodwill Store where everything is priced by the pound instead of by individual tags or even according to specific categories.  Currently, the price is $1.29/pound.  The catch is that because the prices are so good, there's no time or effort spent on organization.  Unlike other thrift stores, when you walk in, you don't see racks and shelves.  Instead, you see gigantic bins piled high with clothes, shoes, toys, etc.  The store does a pretty good job of keeping clothes separate from the toys and books separate from the shoes.  In other words, there are bins for each, but in the clothes bins, anything goes.  You may find baby clothes, men's clothes, women's clothes, and so on.  If you want to find buried treasure, you have to dig.

I understand that for some people, this is simply too much work.  For me, however, it's like Christmas every time we go.  First of all, being the thrifty shopper I am, I love walking out of the store with a gigantic trash bag full of clothes and having spent $12.  It's fantastic!  Second, Jason and I really have a good time while digging.  We laugh at the colors and prints on some of the clothing we come across.  Jason's favorite thing to do is to pick two items that couldn't possibly clash any worse and say, "I think you need this outfit."  The whole process is truly a blast, but the fun doesn't stop there.

After we get our treasures home (most of which are mine), we have what Jason calls "our fashion show".  We try on all of our new pieces, checking for fit, comfort, etc.  When that's done, the real work begins.  I first cut off any tags that may be on the clothing.  (Believe it or not, I've often purchased clothes that still had the retailer tags on them, and most of the pieces came from high-end department stores.)  That done, I set about checking the labels and tossing the clothes into piles according to their washing instructions.  Typically, after that, I start the laundry because I can't wait to wear my new clothes. 

As I thought about the process of sorting according to labels, I wondered how often we do that with people.  Think about it.  Have you ever found yourself in a pile in which you knew you didn't belong simply because someone had mislabeled you?  Being a shy person, I've often found myself in the "snob" pile because my timidity was mistaken for arrogance.  And let me tell you, it hurts!  But I can't help but ask myself how often I mislabel others.

"She is so disorganized!"  - Maybe that's because her husband left her, and she now has to juggle three kids, a job, all the housework, all the errands, all the cooking and more than I could possibly every imagine.  Is she really disorganized, or is she simply overwhelmed?

"He's so thoughtless!" - Is he really, or do I consider him that way because he doesn't think the way I think?

"She's so unfriendly.  She didn't even say 'hello' when she passed me this morning." - Hmm, little did I know that she had just received a phone call that her mother has cancer, and she was doing all she could to hold back the tears until she reached the privacy of her office.

See what I mean?  We're so quick to pass judgment on others when we really have no idea what it's like to live their lives and walk in their shoes.  And so, without a thought, we stick a label on them and toss them into what we deem the appropriate pile to be dealt with accordingly.

The sad truth is that most of us should be stamped with a common label that reads, "handle with care".  We are tired.  We are weary.  We are frustrated.  We are struggling day after day to make life work, to make ends meet, to make a way for our families.  We don't need insensitive bystanders slapping labels on us and tossing us aside.  We need to be handled with care.  We need to have someone say, "No, I don't understand what you're going through, but I'm praying for you."  We need to know that someone cares.

Let's be careful with the labels.  We could really cause permanent damage. . . and that damage goes far beyond shrinkage or fading.

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