Not my sock drawer.


I once painted my sock drawer shut.

I had just moved into a new house, into a new room, which had a slanty charming ceiling, big charming windows, and a cute, charming set of drawers that were built into the wall.  The paint job?  Not charming.  My cousin came over and we spent a fun Saturday painting and singing and wearing grubby clothes and succeeded in making my charming room even more charming, just by a coat of white semi-gloss.   I was delighted.

Until I realized that I had painted my sock drawer shut.  I moved my clothes into the set of drawers built into my wall before we painted, and I didn’t even think about taking out the drawers while we painted (did I mention that when I was younger I wasn’t always good about thinking things through?), and that is how I ended up having no socks to wear for almost a month.

I managed to wrest open all of the drawers in my wall except the sock drawer, which was small and painted in good.  “Eh,” I thought.  “Who needs socks anyway?”

Turns out, sometimes I need socks.  To exercise, for instance.  To wear with some business clothes.  To wear with closed-toe Doc Martens (after a certain number of days…).

Which is why I found myself repeatedly making a silent plea to the world, “Please don’t judge me.  I painted my sock drawer shut!”  It made such sense to me.

At some point, someone suggested I use a razor blade to cut the drawer open (you mean, all those weeks all I needed was a tool?), and I was back to being appropriately socked, and the earth continued forth in its rotations.

Cut to the future.  I was volunteering at our local LDS temple, where my job was to help women visiting the temple find lockers in which to place their personal items while they participated in the worship ordinances.  One evening, a woman walked into the locker room, and proceeded to unpack some of her stuff on a counter.  A woman I was volunteering with looked at the woman in the locker room and observed quietly, “That woman is not wearing socks.  She should be wearing socks.”

I looked at the sockless woman and thought to myself, “Yes.  She should be wearing socks.  Why on earth would anyone at the temple not be wearing socks?”*

And then I was struck by lightning.

No, not really.  But sort of.  Because in that moment, of course—OF COURSE—it hit me how limited my understanding is, how often other people’s lives are mysterious to us, how little room I have to judge because REMEMBER HOW I HADN’T WORN SOCKS FOR A MONTH BECAUSE I HAD PAINTED MY SOCK DRAWER SHUT?

Since then I have realized I am most apt to judge other people when I think to myself, “What possible reason could justify the thing that they are doing?”  And when I come up with none—no story about them racing to the hospital, no hypothetical about them having had the worst day ever, no possible misunderstanding that could justify the kind of comment they just made—then I feel free to think badly of them (i.e., “wow, that person just did a mean thing”).  The (very logical) reasoning goes like this: Others need a reason to excuse their behaving badly, and if I have brainstormed lots of possibilities but can’t actually think of any reason that would excuse their behavior then clearly they don’t have one; therefore they really are behaving badly.  And I am free to judge.

But really—painting a sock drawer shut?  Do people even do that?

So that is why these days I try—though not hard enough and certainly not often enough and lately, barely hard at all (as usual, I’m preaching to myself through this post)—to remember that sometimes people paint their sock drawers shut.  Or other things equally real but totally random and hardly, hardly guessable.

My logic does not always lead to my compassion, even where my compassion is certainly, certainly due.  Fortunately, God’s logic is compassion.  I’m not sure what that means, but doesn’t it sound true?

* To be clear, the other worker may have been right.  There is something of a dress code in the temple, born out of reverence for God and the holiness of the temples.  But that is not the point of this story.  And I do not judge the other worker for making the comment she did because, for instance, that IS the point of this story.