There have been many turning points in my life, but the most significant one was when I was eight years old. I was the normal kid, my biological parents were still together and I had a younger brother. My father was a policeman and my mom worked out of the home with Pampered Chef, a cooking company. We were the typical American family until October 5, 2000.
My dad worked third shift and my mom was off work that day so on October 4 we spent all day together. Ice-skating and hockey was a huge part of our lives, so naturally we decided to go to the new ice rink my grandma managed and had the whole place to ourselves. We skated for hours and then went out to dinner. After dinner we went back home so my brother and I could go to sleep early enough to go to school the next day and my dad could go work the third shift.
Around three o’clock in the morning on October 5 I woke up to a lot of commotion and police cars surrounding my house. I could hear my mom crying and people trying to calm her down, and as an eight-year-old girl I was scared and nervous to go downstairs and see what the problem was. Eventually, I got the courage to go down the stairs and was greeted by a nervous police officer that I had never seen before. Since I was so young I do not remember in great detail how the conversations went, but I do remember just being so frustrated because no one would tell me what was happening and why my mom was not present. The only details they would give me was that my dad was in a bad car accident. I was so young at the time that I truly could not comprehend that my world was going to be turned completely upside down.
It did not take long for my grandma to get to my house. I sat on my couch in the living room with her, my brother, and a few police officers for hours. Finally around eight in the morning my mom approached the living room with the police chaplain. At the time I had no idea who he was, but now he is a close family friend. Once they walked into the room, I was positive my dad would come in right behind them in a wheelchair. This was not the case. My mom was in so much pain she could not speak or comfort my brother and I, so the Chaplain had to do all the talking. After explaining the fact that my father did not make it through the accident I ran upstairs to my room to be alone. I was only eight years old, but by that time I knew enough about death that I was heartbroken and devastated. The accident happened because a semi-driver ran a stoplight. That is one thing that drives me crazy, the fact that it was so preventable.
The next week is a complete blur to me. My family is very well known in Fort Wayne, my hometown, so the amount of support we had was unbelievable. Not only that, but because my dad was a police officer, many people have had to deal with them at one point or another. The viewing lasted from eight in the morning until around midnight, with a constant line. Although I was so torn up about my father’s passing, I loved that I got to see literally every person that was in my life, plus making new relationships. My brother and I would run around outside in the cold October weather greeting and entertaining everyone that was waiting in line for hours.
Not only was the viewing full of people, the funeral has gone down in Fort Wayne’s history. It was noted that the funeral had the biggest attendance of any other funeral in Fort Wayne ever. The funeral was held at the biggest church in Fort Wayne at the time called Blackhawk Christian Church. It was completely full and many close friends and family got the chance to speak. The whole funeral process was so chaotic and such a hard time I have very little memory of it. I honestly believe that my conscience has blocked many of the details out of my memory.
I would do anything to have my father back, only if I even got the chance to say goodbye to him. I know that will never happen and it is a hard thing to live with, but I have become a stronger person by moving on with my life. A death in general can be a pivotal point in ones life, especially when you are an eight-year-old girl whose father passes away suddenly.
Even though the memories of the initial days of his passing are painful, I wish I could remember more because I want to preserve every last memory of my father as possible. Our time together was so short, but monumental in my life. Because of his passing, it has been my dream to be a youth counselor. I want to help children and young adults to be able to move past hardships in life and make a difference in someone’s life. Not only has this tragic accident showed me what my purpose is in life, but also it has connected me with so many amazing people. The other police survivors have been so influential on my life and I have even impacted other survivors’ families by helping them in their time of need. If this accident never occurred I cannot imagine what type of person I would be or where I would be going in life.
Dictionaries specify that the word "judgment" refers to the process of forming an opinion after careful consideration. Judgments have their place in a court of law where, by social agreement, authority is granted to a judge or jury to determine whether or not someone's behavior is or is not in accordance with the law. However, while no one has granted us the authority to play judge and jury in our personal lives, most of us make snap judgments all the time declaring our approval or disapproval of whatever and whomever we are observing or experiencing. The problem is that these snap judgments forgo careful consideration, and are typically merely the automatic expression of our personal prejudices and pet peeves. They happen so fast that we often have trouble distinguishing between our judgments and reality, and sometimes we are not even aware of the fact that we are judging ourselves or others. These little judgments, whether we say them out loud or not, are often extremely damaging to those we judge.
Typically, our point of view is built upon thousands of little snap judgments and assumptions we make about who and what we encounter in our lives. This amalgamation becomes so familiar to us that we seldom question its veracity. Here's an experiment for you. Spend about five minutes observing your mind chatter while out in public without judging what you hear yourself thinking. Notice how often you make snap judgments. For example, "He could afford to lose a few pounds," or "I really love the color of her hair," or "Oh, yuck, it's raining." Now, you might say those aren't judgments, they are observations. On closer inspection, notice that each of these statements probably carried with it a level of approval or disapproval, which is what makes them judgments. Observations have no emotional charge -- no personal vote for or against what is being seen or experienced. For example, "It's raining. I'll get an umbrella," has no charge.
Snap judgments are a form of positional thinking -- right/wrong, good/bad, desirable/undesirable. Energetically, each time we make one of these judgments, we are either accepting or rejecting someone or something. When the vote is positive, there is no harm unless it occurs in a relationship where one person's sense of self-worth is dependent upon the approval of the other. When snap judgments are negative, they are a form of emotional pollution and depending on the intensity of the judgment, they can impart psychic violence. For example, just recently, I was with a friend and her husband. She did a few things that annoyed him. While I understood why he was perturbed, I was shocked by the vehemence of his verbal reaction to her. I literally felt my body automatically contract in fear, and his remarks were not even directed at me.
Whether spoken or not, snap judgments have a powerful influence on us and the emotional environment we share. Psychologists and linguists have estimated that about 80 percent of communication is nonverbal, with one UCLA study finding that as much as 93 percent of communication is dictated by nonverbal factors.
Energetically, imagine how much damage all these judgments are doing to people. Consider the overweight man. Don't you think he knows or feels that people are judging him? What would it be like for him if he received an overwhelming amount of compassion rather than judgment? Do you think he would notice the difference?
For many, judgment is a way of life. Did you ever meet one of those people who thinks he or she is always right? They can be very convincing and so emphatic that it can be disarming to stand in a different point of view. Even without an audience, we can be so used to our own points of view that anything or anyone who doesn't agree with us can be immediately seen to be false and be rejected like a knee-jerk reaction, without consideration of possible merit.
Imagine what might happen if we all started to hold ourselves accountable for the impact our snap judgments have on others. What if my friend's husband observed her behavior with more neutrality and saw the situation as a time when he needed to dig a little deeper to access his love for her rather than thoughtlessly attacking her in front of her friend? We always have kinder options available to us. The trick is having the sense to choose them. This takes practice, but just as snap judgments can become a habitual behavior, so can kindness. We just have to choose to be conscious and responsible for our behavior and practice, practice, practice kinder reactions to each other.
A negative snap judgment carries with it some kind of rejection and punishment. It may simply be the act of pulling ourselves back from the other person, creating separation. Or it can involve the spewing of a lot of negative attitude and lack of cooperation, or fists might fly. The kinder alternative is to establish the habit of reacting with greater neutrality by simply observing what is happening and calmly communicating your concerns and preferences with clarity and kindness. People aren't wrong because they don't agree with you. They just see things differently from their point of view. Cultivate an attitude of curiosity to better understand why others look and behave in ways other than what you prefer. You might be surprised how much compassion you feel when you choose to contribute to a safe emotional environment for everyone.
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