I was in the thrift store rummaging through used books. There was an old paperback of Huck Finn. The cover was beat-up, pages were yellow and the edges were starting to crack. "Perfect," I thought. "All this for only a dime!"
As I searched for other literary treasures, a father walked in bringing four loud and disheveled children into the store. The oldest was a boy of about fourteen with curly blond hair and a foul mouth, spilling coarse words and insults in every aisle. His sister, about twelve, was making animal noises – loudly.
The two younger children played with everything in sight. Why didn't the father do anything? Why didn't he say anything? Should I tell the kids to behave? I angrily glanced at the two older children who paid no attention to me anyway.
When the nice lady behind the counter was counting up their clothing purchases, the father finally told the oldest boy to settle down. Too little too late I thought. It was more of a request than a demand.
After they left the store, one of the women volunteers said, "You have to admire foster parents. I couldn't handle all those kids."
Foster parents? They were not his kids after all.
After reviewing the scenario, I realized the man must have just taken in those children that very day. Their thrift store purchases indicated they brought little (if any) clothing with them into the man's home. Looking down at the tattered book in my hand, I tried to imagine what a foster parent would do with Huck Finn.
There was no way to know why the children were recently removed from their home. It was either abuse or neglect. And there I was judging this man as a bad father when actually he cared enough to accept someone else's unruly, unkempt kids into his home.
Ashamed of my quick judgment, I left, asking God to bless the man and the children.
"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment" (John 7:24).