We’ve all passed someone on the street or in the grocery store and made a silent mental (and unfair) judgment about them. Next time you get the urge to do that, remind yourself that you don’t even know half of that person’s situation. Jennifer Knapp Wilkinson would know; she’s been the one on the other end of that judgment many times, and now she’s telling her story.
You know that nightmare you have where you do something embarrassing, someone catches it on camera, and it goes viral on the Internet? That happened to Wilkinson a few years ago, and now it’s gone viral once again.
Wilkinson was riding an electric cart while grocery shopping for her family, and when she turned to grab something off of a shelf, the cart tipped. “I thought I saw a flash of light and heard some young girls giggling. I thought nothing of it cause I am used to hearing people make fun of me or saying snide remarks. It was nothing new,” Wilkinson wrote in a Quora essay.
Soon, the post appeared on the notorious People of Walmart website as well as Reddit. Users started making fun of Wilkinson and saying the photo was of an overweight woman who was too lazy to get out of the cart to pick up the soda cans from the shelf, causing her to fall.
Wildly false stories of what happened in the photo also went around. One website claimed that she ran over an overweight child in the candy aisle and then threatened him because he almost tipped her.
In reality, Wilkinson has a condition called spondylolisthesis, meaning one of her vertebrae is out of place. The disorder makes her legs feel numb and weak if she stands for an extended period of time, and sometimes she’ll even fall over. Had the girls who snapped the photo known that, they probably would have thought twice about posting it.
Wilkinson says she also isn’t blind to the fact that she’s overweight. “I have major depressive disorder, PTSD, and avoidant personality disorder,” she wrote. “So I ended up using food to cope with my mental illnesses.”
She went on to say exactly why she’s sharing her story. “People think it is funny to laugh at people with disabilities. You cannot see my disabilities but they are there and they are real,” she wrote. “So next time you see photos making fun of people just remember you know nothing about these people or the struggles they face every day. It is never just harmless fun to laugh at someone.”
Wilkinson also wants to clarify that she’s not sharing her story to get other people’s pity. “What I want is compassion, understanding, and respect as a fellow human being. I am a person please treat me like one!”
Judging another person’s situation doesn’t benefit anyone involved, and there’s absolutely no reason we should be posting our judgments to the Internet. Wilkinson is sharing her story to save others from having to go through the same ridicule she did—and we can all play our part by rising above and being conscious of our thoughts and words.
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