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Commentary - Don't judge people; be proud of yourself

By Janel (Mohrmann) Hamilton, Evansville, MN

People make mistakes. Accidents happen. Walls are built and opinions are made. I try not to judge someone because of their past and I hope no one would judge me because of mine.

I had my son at 15. I was pregnant at 14 and only told one person. Through it all, I didn't see a doctor until I went into labor. After my son was born, I got quite a few looks. Some said, "You poor girl" and others said, "What a little #*%&!" I got over it. Not very many people came up to me to ask how things were or to even get my son's name. I figured it was their loss not getting to know either of us.

My mom must have endured a few looks, too. But I get my strength from her and we (my whole family) weathered the storm. I decided then that I was going to be a leader, not a follower. I stopped listening to gossip (or at least stopped believing it). If a rumor was going around about a friend of mine, instead of passing it on to the next listening ear, I would call them up and ask them about it. Most of the time the story wasn't true and they were happy to set the story straight.

I tend to stand out in a crowd, not blend in, but not to embarrass myself or my kids, only to have fun and make lasting memories. We are only on this earth for a short time so even though things don't always go as planned, I try to make the most of it.

I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes and poor choices. But that's what made me the strong and beautiful woman that I am today. I am proud of where I am in my life. I have no regrets. Why? Because each and every one of those has turned into stepping stones that I could teach to my kids. Lessons like knowing right from wrong, the difference between "friends" and good people (and believe me when I say there is a big difference), how to turn the other cheek and when to stand up and be proud of who you are and what you believe in.

One day in Walmart, my oldest daughter asked me, "Why do you always say hi to people you don't know or wave to people when we're in the car?" I'm pretty sure I had embarrassed her by doing these things on this particular day. I said, "Am I hurting you by doing these things?" She said, "No, but..."

Maybe that person has had a bad day and that one little word "Hi," accompanied by a smile is what it takes to change their whole day around. We talked to my mom about it later and I felt very reassured when Mom told her almost the exact same thing.

I guess the whole reason I'm writing this down is in hopes that at least one of you reading it would decide to lead and not follow, to not believe everything just because of something your neighbor heard or an article you read in the paper, to stand out instead of blending in, and to wave at the stranger you pass on the street because you never know how much you just might change their day!