This We Believe

Separated by Differences, United by Beliefs

Background Revelations in a Kitchen

on February 24, 2014

An honest way of describing me for a considerable bulk of my 19 year life would be “judgmental.” This trait isn’t exclusive to me—my family and close friends succumb to quick presumptions of others as well. It tainted my perception of people for a long time. Finding work at a custard restaurant of all places ended up being the key to my dilemma. After that experience, I can safely say I believe that you can never truly judge a person before you know his or her background.

Working in the kitchen at Culver’s could be a scary experience. There was a young man from Chicago who referred to everyone as “guy” and had a kid at 16. A manager had teeth missing from what is unanimously agreed to be alcoholism. A couple of the other guys would sell drugs after close. Being in my late teens, an aspiring scientist, and having never smoked or drank alcohol in my life, fitting in was a chore for about 22 hours a week.  I viewed them all in a negative light.

One kitchen worker, Tyler, stood out. In his early twenties, he seemed to share the same disgust I did for most of the store. He was typically sarcastic and swore like a sailor. I quickly befriended him, thinking he had a mentality just like mine due to our similar attitude about everyone else. Slowly I began to learn more and more about him through occasion inquisition, whether it concerned his constantly aching back or anger towards the world.

On a summer night while closing the kitchen, everything poured out.

About five years prior, Tyler was bitten on the chin by a rat belonging to a friend. He got Rat Bite Fever, a disease that resulting in bacteria destroying his cartilage, leaving him in relentless pain. He sued and ended up with over $50,000, which he promptly spent frivolously. He bought an aquarium, traveled around, bought drinks for everyone at the bar… anything he desired. Now he made eight dollars an hour putting ketchup on buns, despite being a manager at another store.

Everyday was a struggle for him. He barely had enough to keep an apartment with his girlfriend, his parents weren’t on good terms with him, school was impossible, and he got screamed at daily by Culver’s managers. I would never have presumed any of this, only that he was unlike the other workers. That night felt surreal.

I know there are other people out there, good and bad, who have had lives filled with negativity. Tyler had made honest mistakes in his life, and he received no appreciation from anyone due to quick judgments about his attitude and personality. I never would have guessed he had been through those tough times, and here he was facing the world with an attitude comparable to mine, despite such different lives. Now, I try to never make assumptions and always keep an open mind.

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