One night, a loud noise woke my husband and I around 3 in the morning. It sounded like someone thrashing around in the water below our window.
We sat up to listen if a child had somehow gotten through the gate to the yard and fallen in. (A tarp over their pergola prevented us from seeing anything.) Then we heard the sound of someone vigorously swimming laps.
Disgruntled, I fell back against my pillow. It's summer and everyone sleeps with the windows open! Do they really need to indulge in an energetic swim davka in the middle of the night?
Hoping I would be able to get back to sleep despite all the noise, I shut the window, which did indeed lessen the sound.
In the morning, I discovered that the noise had also woken my children sleeping in the room over the pool. But they weren't disgruntled; they were excited about the idea of a midnight swim and begged us to buy a pool so they could indulge too.
A couple of days later, my children informed me that a cat had gotten into the neighbors' swimming pool a couple of nights back - meaning, the night we were rudely awakened.
"It crawled under the pool cover and got stuck in there," they said. "So it just kept paddling around until the neighbors woke up from the noise, lifted the cover, and the cat jumped out and ran off."
Now, I don't know how I could've assumed that the sound of a vigorous breast strokes was actually a cat (it really didn't sound like one) nor did I know that cats could swim. (Apparently they can if they're really desperate.)
But instead of condemning my fellow Jews in my head, perhaps I could've thought, "It sounds like they're thoughtlessly indulging in a noisy swim right under our window in the middle of the night. But maybe things aren't what they seem. Maybe they're not being thoughtless or indulgent at all and there's something else going on."
And that was a good lesson in being dan l'kaf zechut, giving the benefit of the doubt.