Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Your Experiences Influence How You See Others

Traveler? Homeless? Other?

Sunday morning while driving to church I spotted a man walking along North Avenue in the direction of downtown. He was pulling a black luggage bag with one hand. The other held a mobile phone, which he pressed firmly against his ear. The gait of his stride suggested he was on a mission but he didn't seem to be in that much of a hurry. Since it wasn’t raining or anything, I decided not to offer him a ride as I sometimes do when foul weather is afoot. Besides I was late. However, I still think about that guy and here’s why.
               I could be wrong but my sense was that he was headed to the train station and walking there was his only option. I've been there and done that myself in leaner times. You know the scenario: you need to get somewhere, don’t have a ride and the only option is hoofing it. Or maybe you don’t know that scenario, because you’ve never been broke. Like I was. Like probably he is.
               It can be easy to make value judgments about how people live. Especially when you yourself have been experiencing a certain way of being during your life. Or maybe have forgotten how things used to be back in the day. In the case of the intrepid traveler, based on the quality of his clothes and having a mobile phone, I was fairly confident he wasn’t homeless but had few assets.
Cold blooded suspect or cold civil rights activist?*
               Misunderstandings often arise when people mistakenly assume other folks have the resources to acquire basic necessities. Things like food, shelter and safety. Many people in this community simply don’t have these things because they lack the means. And in a lot of cases their friends and family don’t either.
               Things can be tough when your closest supporters have as little as you. For instance: you have some extra money the same time one of your friends or family are hit with financial crisis. Where do you imagine the spare resources go? Some say you should just take care of yourself or find new friends. Easier said than done.
               People of lesser means have fewer options. But your kids need help so you help them. Parents need assistance, you do the same. This isn’t about springing for a new video game or carton of cigarettes. We’re talking core needs, like a winter coat, paying a water bill or buying baby diapers. Yeah, it leaves you with little or sometimes nothing but what’re you going to do? Nothing?
Respected businessman, convicted felon?
               Working with less means you’re left with less after you help. Yet we blame the poor for being poor when all they’re trying to do is get by in life, just like folks with three-, four- and five-figure bank accounts. People with means have support systems around them who have the same resources or better. Therefore it's easier to support a lifestyle that doesn’t include welfare or food stamps. Need a lawyer? Call cousin Cherie. Need to get into a doctor fast? Uncle Tyson can help.
               Yet even as I think about it, I could be totally wrong about the guy walking on the street, and not about him going to the train station. What if he wasn’t out there walking because he had to? He could just as well have been on foot because he cares about vehicle carbon emissions and the environment. Or he could have been walking for health’s sake. Bottom line? Be careful about assigning value to the way other people move in the world. You might just find that the assessment you’re making is more about yourself than them.
*(photo credit: Nikkolas Smith courtesy of Deviant Art)

No comments:

Post a Comment