The Neighbor: A Lesson on Judgement, Assumptions, and Acceptance

I had a neighbor when I was in the fifth grade named Mike Miller. A large boy, with a navy blue t-shirt that rode up his protuberant belly on a more than a consistent basis. I remember he lived with his Nana, who was at least a hundred years old, and they ate a lot of TV dinners. I am not sure that he and I ever exchanged more than ten words. I do remember him, however, sitting in his driveway on his circa 1982 orange-bouncy-thing giving me the stink-eye from across the street.

The Neighbor: A Lesson on Judgement, Assumptions, and Acceptance

We attended the same elementary school but were not in the same class, so there was not much cause for interaction. Frankly, he terrified me, and I am pretty sure he smelled bad although I had never been close enough to tell. About two weeks into the school year, during arts and crafts, I started hearing my name peppered throughout whispers around my classroom. I turned to my friend Sarah and asked her what the buzz was about. She said, and I quote, “Purple Pants is going to kill you.” I had the immediate feeling like someone had their fist around my heart while simultaneously kicking me in the stomach. Once my arrhythmia settled, I asked Sarah an important question. “Who is ‘Purple Pants’ ?”  “You should know, you’re the one that called her that. It’s the reason she is going to kill you.” My mind raced back to recess, and sure enough, the cogs clicked together.  Bonettee Desjardins, “The New Kid,” wearing purple corduroys with pink patches on the knees. I made fun; I did, because I loved those pants and there was no alternative. Clearly, I took it too far and now Bonettee  Desjardins, of husky French Canadian stock, was going to kill me.

[Tweet “”Purple Pants is going to kill you!””]

The final bell rang, and suddenly there was silence. All eyes were on me. I stood, grabbed my backpack and Jetson’s lunch box, and headed out the back door as calmly as possible. Even Sarah was watching. I think she knew I was about to meet my demise. I started down the school walkway to head to the main street and all of a sudden there was “Purple Pants” and her gang. (How did she have a gang after only two weeks of school??)

I slowed, buying myself some time to strategize. Someone grabbed my hand. Big Mike. Not a word but a firm grip that said everything. He marched through the middle of Bonnetee’s gang, flapping his free hand as if they were an annoying spider web. We walked the six blocks home with our heads down watching the road. He let go of my hand at my driveway and without looking back kept walking across the street to his house, his Nana and his TV dinner. I was alive, “Purple Pants” and her gang had been foisted and Mike, the neighbor, did not smell.

This week I want you to be aware of judgments you are unknowingly making toward others. Just a little “under dialogue” that might be running in the background without your being aware. It happens to me all the time! Staying on top of it is a little like a game of “whack a mole”. How can you reframe those thoughts to be more accepting, less assuming and less full of judgement? It is part of our lifework, right? 



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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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