You walked past a homeless man a while back. You called him George in your head. It was a cold, bitter morning and you were in a rush to get to some shelter as the elements attacked every crevice of your exposed face. You still remember thanking God for small favours and the fact that you had bought a pair of gloves yesterday.
The bridge that you were crossing was a bit slippery- that was how cold it was- there was a thin sheet of ice over the wood and you found yourself walking slowly, to prevent yourself from falling face first, something which, was a very likely possibility.
So there you were, in your big winter coat, combat boots and your newly acquired gloves, shuffling your way across the bridge.
A man was walking towards you, from the other side of the bridge and in between you sat another man. A homeless man. George. He was wrapped in a blue shawl, a huge hat covering his head and his money tin held out in his outstretched hands, un-gloved as they were.
The usual sense of unease started to creep over you. You didn’t know where to put your eyes, what to do. You just felt awkward.
And so you set your eyes on the only thing that you could look at without feeling this feeling that you couldn’t identify. You set your eyes on somewhere just above the oncoming stranger’s shoulder and you continued to slide your way across the Godforsaken bridge. It seemed to go on forever.
And then by some sick turn of fate, the stranger and you, both met in the middle, as you walked past George. You watched as your fellow pedestrian looked right down at the George. Right into his eyes and then at the money tin that he held out in anticipation. And then kept right on walking.
You kept on walking too of course but you were shocked.
How dare he? That was so rude of him. To look George in the eyes like that, as though to say “get your own money” and then walk on? Where was the humanity? The kindness? The Christmas spirit?
You remember shaking your head, as you condemned this man that you did not know.
Did he feel no guilt?
Guilt. Because that was the feeling that you had recognised but refused to name.
What gave you the right to judge then? You thought to yourself as you continued to walk. Who was really in the wrong here?
You, because you refused to acknowledge George’s existence by pretending that you did not see him and act as though he was not there?
Or the other man for looking straight into his eyes and not helping when he might have been able to?
It was then that you realised that you had become less giving, less accommodating, less caring.
This was what the world had taught you.
And almost in the same thought, you knew that too was a lie. Almost like the way you had pretended not to recognise your own guilt. You knew that it was a decision that you had made. A decision to look away.
And yet you had had the audacity to place judgement on that stranger when you were essentially just as bad, if not worse. At least he had looked at him, noted his presence.
It was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
*And George was probably judging enough for the two of you anyway.
A few noteworthy lessons:
- None of us are in a position to judge because we are only objective when we are on the outside. That man probably thought you evil for ignoring George in such a manner. But you were not ignoring him and you are not evil. It was merely your guilt that caused you to look away. Which brings us back to the old age rule of not judging a person who’s shoes you have not walked in.
- Do your best to help people. Do so willingly, where and when you can. But never judge another for their inability or decision not to.
- Kindness is a decision that you have to choose every single day. Don’t blame the world for your heart turning cold. To be caring, giving and kind, is a choice that has to be made and this makes it hard too. Some people have it, ornately, but if you don’t then you can still choose it. If you choose as such, then that you will be as such. Eventually.
- Don’t hide from your emotions. Most of the time, you know exactly what you are feeling but you are unwilling to face it head on. And sometimes you end up projecting this feeling unto others. Be honest with yourself because only then will you be able to deal with it.
Until next time.