Reminder: You can't judge a person's financial situation by their clothing—or anything else
Image by Jeremy Smith from Pixabay

Say you're in line at the grocery store when the woman checking out in front of you pulls a SNAP benefits card out of an expensive-looking, name brand purse to pay for her groceries. Let's say her nails are freshly manicured. Maybe she's carrying an iPhone as well. Is your first thought something like:

Why is she receiving public assistance if she can afford that nice purse, nails, and phone?


Our brains are prone to making immediate, reflexive judgments about people we encounter. That's just basic psychology, but it doesn't mean we can't consciously counter our snap judgments or reprogram our brains to make different ones. And when it comes to assumptions about people who are struggling financially, a whole lot of us could desperately use some reprogramming.

RELATED: What one man's anger can teach us about the way we treat welfare recipients.

A viral Facebook post from last December is making the rounds again because it reminds us of a vital truth we all need to internalize.

Jenni Svoboda wrote:

Starting to see a lot of posts about people panhandling or using SNAP cards while dressed in decent/nice clothes again.

In the last month, I've donated 4 trash bags full of nice clothes—including miss me and silver jeans, VS fleeces, and a Columbia coat to People's City Mission. I don't say this to brag, I say this to remind you to mind your own business. You have zero idea where the stranger at the grocery store got their name brand clothes, and they don't owe it to you to be dressed in rags so you know they're worthy of getting some help to eat. 💯 If you're warm, dry, and not starving, just be grateful.

Not only do people donate brand name clothing to shelters or clothing drives, but brand new, name brand clothing can often be had for a song at thrift stores or yard sales. Commenters on the Facebook post pointed out examples of how they had bought a new-with-tags Adidas jacket for $3 and a $60 pair of Converse for 50 cents. My own name brand purse cost $1.49 at our local thrift store, and it was barely used. Someone wearing or carrying something that looks expensive is in no way an indicator of someone's financial status.

Maybe that woman at the store paid pennies for that purse. Maybe her roommate is a manicurist who does her nails for free. Maybe she got that phone before she fell on hard times.

Maybe it's none of our flippin' business.

"But they're using my tax dollars to pay for their groceries, so it is my business!"

No, it's not. First of all, the fraction of our tax dollars that goes to public assistance is pretty negligible. The average American tax payer shells out less than $7 a month for welfare assistance—is that really worth judging a perfect stranger over? And second of all, our tax dollars go to all kinds of things that other people use and we don't. That's the way taxes are designed to work.

If my city has to repair a street across town that I never drive on, I'm not going to start questioning whether the people who use it really need to drive on it that frequently. "They're using my tax dollars to repair that road, so it is totally my business to determine whether the people are driving on that road more than they really need to." That sounds silly, doesn't it?

RELATED: This mom left an abusive relationship and fell into poverty. Here's how she got out.

People also tend to get judgy about what people buy with food stamps, as if people receiving assistance are obligated to have a far more perfect diet than the rest of us. When that judgment comes, we need to ask ourselves why someone struggling financially doesn't deserve a donut once in a while.

The bottom line is it's not okay to police people using public assistance. It's not okay to decide that a person has to meet some visual standard of poverty in order to need or deserve help. It's not okay to assume anything about a person's financial situation based on what they're wearing, what they're carrying, or how put together they look. It's not okay to judge what a person has in their grocery cart or how they are paying for it.

When you think about it, we don't know where anyone's money comes from. The well-off woman paying for her kombucha and organic spinach may have made her money scamming the elderly. That dude paying for his groceries with cash might be selling drugs on the side. And that mom with the SNAP card buying cake and soda might have a kid celebrating a birthday and those treats are the only ones they're going to get for a while.

But which of those people would we tend to judge first?

We all have the choice, during the seconds of a random encounter, to assume the best or assume the worst in people. When you don't know what you're looking at, give people the benefit of the doubt. If our brains are going to make snap judgments anyway, let's reprogram them to come from a place of kindness and compassion.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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