I think it’s human nature to make snap judgements before we really know what’s going on. We often jump to conclusions even if we only have a small set of facts. I heard an experience recently that showed how there’s always another side to the story.
This involved a young lady breaking into my friend’s car—a car parked in plain view of a large office building full of employees and police officers. A herd of incredulous people watched the whole thing happen, including her prompt arrest. The lady was a poster child for meth addicts: all skin and bones, with scabs and missing teeth.
Everyone’s first reaction was, “Duh, we could all see you!” She could have walked two minutes to a nearby neighborhood full of cars not under surveillance. And it seemed pretty obvious she was only feeding her addiction. If she’d never gotten hooked on drugs in the first place, or had tried to get clean, she wouldn’t have ended up in jail.
But like most things in life, there’s a less-obvious back story. In her case, that back story is tragic, and it could happen to anyone. I heard the humbling details from one of the arresting officers.
This hardened, drug-addicted, wasted lady was once a young, promising athlete at her high school. The daughter of a prominent and well-off family. Popular, pretty, with a full life ahead of her. One day she had a serious sports injury and her subsequent recovery required strong pain killers. The powerful medicine soon led to an addition. The addiction led to dropping out of school and hitting the streets. Living on the streets eventually led her to a parking lot where police officers watched her break into my friend’s car. And that, of course, led her to jail.
Think for a minute of her family and former friends, those who loved her and perhaps watched her fall into a life nobody would want. Think of her own broken dreams and lost hopes, and her long-gone athletic career. Think of what she herself has thought about as she’s slept on the streets.
This story hit me hard as I thought of my own children and their many sports injuries. How easy would it be for them to follow the same path? What about my own injury-of-the-week program and the meds I’ve needed?
It’s very easy to judge others. Why didn’t you just quit the pain killers when you first had a problem? Why didn’t you reach out to others for help? Why didn’t you try a recovery program?
But when I heard the back story, I had a different question.
Why have I been so lucky to not end up just like her?
There have been so many times in my life where a simple decision could have led me down a very different path. I truly believe that I—and all of us, really—am only one bad decision away from a disaster. No one should be so arrogant to think something like that could never happen to them.
I don’t know what happened to the young lady after the arrest, but I hope it finally led her on the path to recovery.