Stereotypes and Stigma

I went into a local store where I live a few weeks back and saw a woman and her two sons standing at the cash register fully clothed from head to toe in almost 70 degree weather. I assumed this was because of their religion because, growing up, we were taught that people who looked like “that” were odd or different. They struck my attention as soon as I entered the store and I found myself staring at them because “their kind” wasn’t common in our town.

I got closer and one of the sons smiled at me and said “Hello.” His mother just looked at him with such love in her eyes so as to say, “Good job, Son, you just made that lady’s day with a simple hello.”

Truth be told, he did. I had been suffering with my own personal mental and physical health, crying a lot and fully engulfed in a personal pity party for myself.

This mother and her two sons didn’t stop for one moment to look at me and in their mind say, “She must be mentally ill,” or “Look at the way SHE dresses.”  Instead they reached out with a simple smile and unbiased hello, with no stigma or stereotypes attached.

I went home and thought about this experience, which I will continue to do with one ending thought in my mind, which as some say is the moral of the story: What really is common, normal, or even odd? All of us. Just like being diagnosed with a mental illness, we are all alike in some capacity.