I remember once when I was in high school I got a low blood sugar in the middle of class and went to the vending machines to get a Snickers. Like any normal person with type 1 diabetes experiencing a low, I was wolfing it down and taking no prisoners, and my P.E. coach walked by. I so engrossed in my ravenous, shaky hunger that I barely noticed him. But later that day when I was in his class, he called me out in front of everyone: "I saw Kintner this morning demolishing a candy bar and I thought she was going to eat the wrapper!". In his mind, he was making a harmless comment that I'm sure he thought was hilarious, but I. Was. Mortified. What a huge jerkwad! I'd like to see him handle a low blood sugar. He didn't know me or what I deal with! It really ticks me off when people should know better and don't, especially when it's at my expense. This makes me think of the quotation: "Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about." Amen, Plato! He nailed it. There is no sign on my forehead that says I have diabetes (although there may be box of juice in my hand!), and oddly enough, this can be frustrating because although I don't want to be defined by or treated differently because of my diabetes, people not knowing leaves me open to feeling misunderstood, judged, and like a victim of ignorance. This being said, a few years later I attended a workshop with a dear friend and her phone rang right in the middle of it. She noisily left the room, gathering several large bags and bumping into people as she stepped over them to leave. When I spoke with lecturer afterwards, he expressed that he was quite offended that my friend would leave in the middle of his presentation--it was disruptive, loud and he felt incredibly disrespected. What he did not know was that my friend had actually texted me when she left, explaining that her son with special needs had been in an accident and she had to go to the hospital. It's interesting because I totally got the presenter's frustration--I've given lectures before and it can be awful when there are interruptions. But in this case, I saw her side as well and understood the fear and urgency of her situation. Once I relayed the story to him, I saw his heart soften and a connection take place. He told me that he and his wife were pregnant and that he would have done the same thing for their child.
So Plato was right--everyone is dealing with something that we know nothing about. What we are responsible for, however, is remembering to stay open to another person's story and to teaching them about ours, as opposed to living in a place of silent resentment. Years later, I think about what a less reactive, more centered me would now say to that coach: "Actually, I have diabetes and as a result of my medical condition, I had a low blood sugar and one of the symptoms besides feeling terrible is hunger. Let me know if you have any other questions." There is a difference between shaming someone and educating them--and the message tends to be better received when you are coming from the latter. No matter how obvious it may be to me, he didn't know I would feel hurt, and it is my job to explain to him why because I'd want someone to do the same.