This year, Walmart devised an initiative to recognize the dedication and sacrifice of our servicemen and women with a green light bulb. Lots of green light bulbs, in fact. The idea being that Americans across this great nation would traipse out to
the store Walmart, scoop up bulbs, and replace their traditional bulbs on Veterans’ Day. We did not buy one. On November 11, two of our neighbors quickly pointed out this unpatriotic behavior in the neighborhood message forum on NextDoor*.
Values Aren’t Always Visible
These two people were quick to forget that they do not see light bulbs of any color outside our house. Aside from the rare occasion on which I want to illuminate our address numbers for company who may not recognize our house in the dark, our carriage lights stay dark. I do not wish to waste the money; I do not wish to waste the electricity. Patriotism has nothing to do with it. For the better part of my entire childhood and adulthood, I have proudly recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning with a classroom of students who are learning to do the same. The mascot of my place of employment is a patriot, so I don red, white, and blue every Friday and encourage my students to do the same. I participate in Operation Support Our Troops. I give to the Wounded Warrior Project. But because you don’t see my green light bulb, I am unAmerican.
You Cannot Always See Someone’s Character
In the wake of the tragedies in Beirut and Paris, I opted not to change my personal profile photo or the profile photo for this blog to the Paris flag. And it took all of about twenty minutes before someone called me out on it. There are myriad reasons why I skipped the flag overlay; the primary reason being I was too busy. I was too busy overhauling two days worth of lessons plans to figure out how to explain to seventy twelve-year-olds what happened, why fear is not the answer, and what they can do to send a little more love and acceptance out into the world. But because you do not see a flag in my profile photo, I am unfazed by these tragedies.
Snapshots Aren’t the Whole Picture
If the past week of current events has underscored anything, it is the human tendency to dismiss what we do not understand. While it is easy to paint the political sphere as judgmental, it is alive and well in personal finance too. I will be the first to admit the Judgy McJudgerson inside of me is awakened when I see a McMansion, a Ferrari, or a Michael Kors purse. As if that one snapshot of a person encompasses her entire being. Sure, someone might be in debt up to her eyeballs thanks to an affinity for designer bags. Or maybe she brings in enough money that a $200 purse is her version of a $40 Target bag. I have no way of knowing. But I judge her anyway.
I am not alone in my propensity towards judgement. We are all guilty of it to some degree. But if nothing else comes from this past week, let it be the lesson that someone holding a different value system than you does not give you any high ground upon which to perch.
Offer advice. Proffer suggestions. Lead by example. But for the love of all things human, don’t assume that if you’ve seen someone’s watch and wallet or light bulbs and profile photo that you really know who they are as people. You don’t.
*If you think there is drama on Facebook, you should see people flip their ish when someone takes a pot shot at siding ideas or leaves a negative review a beloved lawn service on NextDoor.
So Tell Me…How do you work to see the bigger picture?