As I walked out of a convenience store with my cup of coffee one late October evening, I noticed an older woman standing next to a pay phone. She was wearing a weathered hat, pink leg warmers that have been out of style for at least 10 years, a black miniskirt with gray stockings, what used to be white sneakers, a brown, tattered coat, and frayed gloves. Stereotypically speaking, she seemed to be homeless. As I waited for my friend to come out of another store, I nonchalantly sipped my coffee from inside my car and watched her rummage through her bag for some change in order to make a call. My compassion for her grew when I noticed how upset she seemed, aggravated at her disposition and frustrated with where her life had led. At least, that is the way she appeared to me as I watched her surrender in her search for change and then slide down the side of the store wall in order to rest.

She looked exhausted. I couldn’t help but wonder what trials had led her to this day. With another sip of coffee I thought about what decisions she may have made. I considered different childhood and young adult scenarios she could have suffered. Perhaps she was emotionally mistreated or physically abused. I considered the possibility of her choosing this lifestyle since surrendering when times become insufferable can feel like the most direct route to relief. Regardless of how hard the times she endured must have been and their cause, I wanted to do something to help.

Just as I was about to rummage through my own bag and offer change for her phone call, a Lexus pulled up alongside of me. Surprisingly enough, I watched her jump to her feet, walk up to it . . . and get in. At that very moment a young girl, about the age of 10, stepped out from the back seat wearing a cat costume. I overheard the homeless woman telling the driver, whose devil horns were perfectly placed, that he was late and that she had been waiting for over a half hour. It was then that I realized Halloween was just a week away and that they were probably on their way to a Halloween party. Since I hadn’t yet prepared for the holiday myself, being consumed in my own world, it was not a determining factor.

We make false judgments about people every day, without knowing what is happening in their lives. We often subconsciously judge people based on their appearance and not on that of which they are made up. We judge their actions based on what we would do given our own personal experiences. We judge based on the information that we have been provided up to that point and given the environment in which we were raised and now live.

It takes a lot of practice to learn how to put yourself in another person’s shoes. I don’t even believe that it is completely possible, but we can begin by realizing that our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and ultimate actions are based on a combination of all the experiences that we have had throughout our lives. Every person experiences his own reality, and that reality, regardless how different from our own, creates who he becomes and how he will react.

The next time you find yourself judging a stranger, take a moment to realize that they are acting perfectly within their own world, and then smile at them as you carry on perfectly within your own.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Michelle C. Ustaszeski is a writer and photographer of inspirational and motivational art. She believes that if you can prematurely feel the emotions of your desired outcome, your reservations have been made and reaching your destination is simply a matter of time. In 1998 Michelle created Sam-n-Nick’s Inspirations (, named after her two sons, when she combined her love of writing together with the digital camera. Sam-n-Nick’s Inspirations produces and sells scenic and enlightening framed art, bookmarks, stationary, music, books, candles, bath products, and other comforting gifts to warm the hearts and souls of her customers through private home parties.