Take, for example, last Monday morning at about 5:30 AM.
There was not yet any sign of the sun as I was walking my German Shepherd, Rodney, in the park near my house. Even the street lights did little to light my way as I walked through a playground area then on to the road that runs through the park.
Joggers had parked their expensive cars at the bottom of the hill to mark the starting point of their pre-dawn run, but they were nowhere to be seen. At the top hill, a light was bobbing up and down.
Other than the joggers and the occasional homeless person, I generally don’t see anyone else at the park at that hour, so my curiosity was piqued.
As my dog and I continued our walk up the hill, the light seemed to move on its own. I simply couldn’t see what it was attached to.
Finally, I realized that a police cruiser was sitting at the top of the hill, blocking a parked car, and a police officer was waving a flashlight into the car.
As I walked by, the officer startled.
“That’s a really big dog,” he said.
“That’s why I’m not afraid to walk here in the dark,” I responded.
“You still need to be careful,” he told me motioning his flashlight on the parked car and the people inside.
“These people were sleeping in here. You never know. They might be harmless, but you need to be careful.”
I cringed. I know the people in the car had heard him and his belittling comment disguised as a warning to me.
I don’t know who the people in the car were or why they were sleeping in the car.
I do know a lot of homeless people sleep in their cars for shelter.
As I continued my walk, I kept my eye on the police officer. After the car and its inhabitants left, he got in his cruiser and drove down the hill past the joggers’ cars.
He didn’t stop to shine his lights on them or see if anyone was inside. I don’t know if he had seen the joggers leave for their run, but I had my suspicions that he was simply making a judgment call.
For the rest of the week, he would drive slowly through the park when I was walking Rodney. He never did stop to check the cars at the bottom of the hill.
This morning, the sun was already up when I took Rodney for a walk, and an older car was parked at the top of the hill, where the police officer had been stopped on Monday morning.
As I approached, I couldn’t see if anyone was inside because the back seat was piled high with stuff. But as I passed, I saw a man in the front seat clipping coupons from the Sunday paper – something most of us do in the comfort of our homes.
I don’t know the man’s story. I don’t even the police officer’s story.
In other words, I’m in the dark about both.
But I do know how quickly many of us are to make judgments about the circumstances and behavior of others.
And that’s just not very bright at all.