What did you bring?

This isn't really to do with being a nurse, this is about being a person. 
Last week I had lunch at Rietta's house. If you're a regular reader, you know that Rietta is my trusty health clerk who I've bonded quite a bit with through a few stressful 9-1-1 calls. Two other things that are important to know about Rietta: one, she lives just a few blocks from one of my schools. That's a neighborhood that...well, it's the ghetto. Rietta keeps her curtains closed and door always locked for a reason. The second important thing about Rietta is that she's black. Call me racist, but at least in the neighborhoods I work in, skin color does matter. Rietta can relate to many parents in a way I can't, not just because she's a parent, but because she lives in the same neighborhood; she lives, talks, and looks like them. She's not the outsider young nurse that comes from two towns away to work, and leaves as soon as she can to return to safety. I've never met someone like Rietta. She lives in her house, and doesn't leave ever, except for work, but never for travels. She barbecues on Sundays, making massive loads of chili beans, collard greens, ribs, steak, chicken, etc. She invites everyone she knows into her house, especially on Sundays, and is unbelievably kind to people of all walks of life. This is her life: cooking on Sundays, sharing food all week, and working the weekdays.

Rietta had been inviting me over for lunch since I'd met her, but when I finally went last week, I could only wonder what had taken me so long. She loaded me up with barbecue leftovers, and we sat down and started talking work. Someone rang the doorbell, and when he walked in to join us Rietta introduced us - him as her son, me as her daughter, as she usually does. I looked at her "son" and the only way to properly describe him is as someone I'd probably cross the street to avoid if I had met him on the sidewalk. Tattooed, etc. He joined us for the rest of lunch, and as we sat in the sparse kitchen, Rietta and I gossiped about teachers. She mentioned one teacher in particular that she's had a few issues with, and told me this; it's stuck with me since: "I'm not trying to be in anyone's business. I just want to know what you brought for lunch." 

It's a lesson I wish people could take to heart - if only everyone could be so open-minded, the world would be a better place. If someone took a snapshot of where I was having lunch, and the tattooed tire man that joined Rietta and I (who, as it turned out, has a daughter at the middle school I work at), I can only imagine what comments there might be. Judgments about the neighborhood, the house, the company, and in this day, the food. The lesson I learned that day is you really can't judge a book by its cover - any book, ever. The tattooed tire man, by the end of lunch, offered to make Tdap phone calls for me for the Spanish speaking parents - as a volunteer. Rietta sent me home that day with enough food to feed me for days, and a quote to keep in mind for much longer. I don't care who you are, let's get along and share lunch. Don't judge people by where they live, what they look like, how they talk, or what they eat. Bon appetit.