Just as I noticed a flash of yellow skipping along beside me as I made my way through a crowded pathway in a foreign country, I heard a voice behind me, “Mija, donde esta su madre?” The little pigtails bounced as her round eyes grew wide looking up at me. Startled, she stopped in her tracks, did a one-eighty, and ran through the sea of people happily beside her mother once again.
This wouldn’t be the first close encounter I had with a child on this trip. Just in from a day of snorkeling, parents struggled to get twins (a boy and a girl) around two into their swimsuits. The boy was ready to go, while mom headed off to el bano with sister. Before I knew it, brother was standing in front of me, arms reaching up. Father gave a hearty laugh, and a nod as I said, “I would love to pick you up if it’s okay with papa”. Little man was happily settled into my embrace. Papa tried to take him once…twice…little man pushed papa’s efforts away. Papa persisted and finally, little man returned to father’s arms.
The group I was with laughed and teased that I have a “mom vibe”. Very likely that I do, but I suspect in the case of this bright little boy, he observed that I was dripping wet with salt and sand from the ocean and he had an inkling that I would be his best chance of making it more quickly to the water’s edge.
Assumptions can be risky and often unfounded, as we observe certain indicators and make a solo decision about what we will choose to believe about another.
We all have the propensity to make assumptions about others. This is an innate survival mechanism that our brains have to ensure our survival. As a child, our brains aren’t fully developed and we’ve had very little experience to teach us that the world can sometimes be an unsafe place.
As adults, we have both the language and brain development to do more than assume. We can use our words to get curious. We can ask, rather than assume.
So why do we still make assumptions about others and then spread our assumptions as if they were truth? I think sometimes our imaginations can be more titillating than reality and far more fun to make up stories about others than to focus on our own story because focusing on our own story sometimes means we have to look at some hard truths.
What would happen, if the next time you catch yourself weaving a story about another, you stop and ask, “what about this resembles me”?