I was in the middle of getting my daily morning reading in when the memory struck…

In 1988 I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter Danielle who is now grown and off at college in California. I was just a month shy of 18 and due for my first ultrasound. I was excited, I planned on finding out if we were expecting a girl or a boy. The nurse ushered me into the room and I gave my medical card to the doctor – it was issued by the state since I didn’t have any medical insurance – and he had me lay down. When he turned on the monitor I craned my neck to see the image, but he turned it away from my line of sight and said nothing, ignoring me completely.

I was young, inexperienced, and I was unused to asserting myself in anything. I did not get to see my baby on the screen, I received no printed images, and I would end up not knowing I was carrying a girl until the day she was born.

He said nothing, just moved the sensor around over my jelly-slicked belly and then handed me something to wipe it off with and said, “You can go now.”

“May I have my medical card back?”

He didn’t even look at the countertop. “I gave it back to you already.”

“Umm, no sir, you didn’t.”

He looked over at me then, down his nose in a very deprecating manner, “Yes I did, Missie, have you looked in your purse?”

I knew he hadn’t handed it back, but I searched my purse obediently, seething inside. “Sir, I don’t have it and I really need that card.”

He finally deigned to look on the countertop, moved a couple of papers and found it. He handed it to me and said, while patting me on the head like a dog, “Good girl, that’s what you get for being persistent!”

Yes, I was seventeen years old.

Yes, I was pregnant and unmarried and, for the moment, on state medical aid.

But that didn’t make me stupid or undeserving of basic respect on his part.

In the two decades that have followed I have thought of him a handful of times and wondered how many other young women he treated in this way and how they felt. I have also wondered what he saw when he looked at me – did he imagine that I would have a pack of babies, all on welfare, in a few more years?

In the end, I would raise my daughter with little or no help from the state or others. She was my responsibility and also (most of the time) my joy. Twenty years later she is on the dean’s list and working hard towards a degree in anthropology. I believe that I raised an intelligent, hard-working, deep-thinking young woman despite the odds and despite the opinions of many others just like that doctor.

None of us are immune to assumptions. I still wince at the memories of some of my own assumptions.

One in particular really bugs me. About ten years ago I cut in front of someone on the highway and she began to follow me, gesturing wildly and pointing. A mile went by, then another, and another – she continued to gesture and I began to feel quite defensive. Geez, lady, I know I cut in front of you but damn, get over it! I employed the use of the middle finger and kept driving.

She continued to follow and point and finally, as the traffic opened up and she pulled to my right side (SEVEN miles later) she pointed to a part of my car and mouthed very clearly “Your tire is FLAT!” The look on her face was what stuck with me…she was clearly pissed at me, but she still wanted me to know I was in danger and that I needed to pay attention to the car and get it taken care of. I pulled in to the nearest service station and they gaped at me when I told them I had driven nearly ten miles on it and not realized how flat it was. By then the wheel was bent.

I had assumed that the woman was pissed off at best, and at worst, well, I am embarrassed to admit that I feared her negative response was due in no small part to the color of my skin. She was black, I was white. To admit that is painful – I don’t like to think that I made an assumption based on the color of someone’s skin – but I believe I did and so it needs to be said.

You have probably heard the saying, “When you assume, you make an ass of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”

I was wrong. I assumed the wrong intentions from that woman just as the doctor assumed I was some dumb ignorant welfare mom.

I challenge you to question some of your assumptions in this week. Ask yourself, “Is what I believe accurate? Is it fair? Could there be exceptions? Could my beliefs actually be assumptions?”

Challenge your assumptions. Clear out the biases and half-truths you hold about others and even about yourself. Imagine how beautiful the world could be without the ugliness of assumptions.

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