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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.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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