I took both cases from the experience of a friend and myself. Read on:
Today I saw a homeless man. He hobbled towards goodness-knows-where. I could tell he wasn’t drunk but he was tired; the sort of weariness you see on a defeated person. He looked to be in his late 40’s but I wouldn’t know. Stress and sadness ages a person.
He slowed as he walked, and bent over to pick what I assumed would be a half-finished cigarette as several littered the floor. I thought to myself “no surprise there”. He stood up and in his hand was an unfinished piece of someone else’s sandwich. It had probably been there all night. He walked past me considering his ‘meal’. Ashamed yet desperate. He walked on. Still considering as though asking himself: “Will I eat this?” I did not doubt that unless his fortune turned for the better shortly he wouldn’t be able to choose otherwise.
It occurred to me then that I was or could have been this defeated man’s good fortune. At that horribly low point of his existence. I might have offered him support. Brought him out of something. Maybe not entirely but brought him further out. I could have been his good fortune but I was rushing for an appointment and the little money I had, I couldn’t/wouldn’t find for what I dubbed ‘lack of time’. I didn’t search hard enough. I found the money later that day when I had ‘time’.
It was sad really, people arrived 20 minutes later than I had. I could have helped the man but for ‘lack of time’ I didn’t
I sat down on the bus on my way to a certain destination. As usual I looked for the nearest seat with no one to bother me. I didn’t find any. So I took my place next to people I may not have cared to take notice of. They may have had their story but this isn’t about them it’s about something more important.
As I sat there listening to the cacophony in the bus I noticed, in front of me, a man and a boy child. He looked unkempt. He had what people have come to call the ‘chav’ outfit. Waterproof tracksuit top and bottom. He had a beer can in his hand. I judged him; how could someone be drinking so early in the day? Worse still; right next to his child. It seemed neither paid any attention to the other. The father spoke and the child’s mind focused everywhere but his father.
It struck me then, as I paid closer attention that the child listened to everything his father said. Asking questions about tenses and how and when to meet the bus driver. All the time all I could see was that the boy saw his father as his superman. He cuddled up to his father and told him with sincerity you cannot fake “I love you dad” and kissed him on his cheek. His father with all the love he could muster told his son “I love you too” and also kissed his son on the cheek.
There they were a man and a child who loved each other. For no other reason than they were father and son. The boy didn’t look at his father’s unkempt demeanour or at the beer in his hand. He looked at the person that man was; his father.
The point I’m trying to make is that well, as much as we take our time to try and guess (judge) people from what we see of them we really don’t know. We see this and that and we judge or are judged by people and we assume way too often these days. In my own world, I blame statistics and conformity. Numbers have a way of lying to people if they aren’t careful to look at what they mean to tell us (did anyone notice the joke there?). Conformity; well because lack of thinking for oneself and obeying the great overlord known as Society has grouped people from what used to be individuals and made them daft. This of course lets statistics do its work peacefully.
“The individual is smart, people are stupid”
– Agent K, MIB
So when we hear or think “White people are crazy”, “African-Americans from ghettos/hoods are not to be trusted”, “iFans are brainwashed idiots who’ve lost the ability to think independently” (← OK that’s just my prejudice!) and so on and so forth. We judge and are judged because of what feels like racism but it’s even worse; Ignorance. Don’t get me wrong though…sometimes it’s true and funny.
Yes we are to be addressed as we present ourselves. People don’t have any other way of assessing others. However, there are times where we need to think a little harder. The old man is poor, and suffering for whatever reason and there I was thinking he was ‘just another one’ but I don’t know that. I assumed he was (ignorance). I thought even if I gave him the money he’d end up using it on drugs (ignorance). Even that isn’t so bad I mean to them in that what-seems-eternal darkness there happens to be a way to escape it. Even if it’s just for a moment they are allowed to escape it.
The father drinking so early in the day right in front of his son; rarely do I ever get to witness such love for not just his son, but another human being. And that’s what it is; we are all just human beings in different situations at different points in our lives. Trying in our own way to live how best we can. Life’s hard enough as it is. Do we really want unnecessary and negative prejudice in it as well?
Now I’m not saying go out of your way and believe the words of everyone without any thinking whatsoever. I never said be naïve. All I’m saying is you don’t know so at the very least be fair.
‘Judge Not Lest Ye be Judged’ – Matthew 7: 1- 5