By John Watson
It is altogether too easy to look at a fellow human being and immediately write them off based on their demeanor or appearance. The perfect example is when passing a homeless person on the street. The majority of people avert their gaze, while others are a lot more vocal in their distaste of the person before them. The most common phrase used when greeted with an outstretched hand looking for help is, “GET A JOB!!” If you have ever said that, or even thought it, when confronted with someone looking for a hand out, you need to stop reading right now and think about why that statement popped into your head at that moment.
Did you assume that the person in front of you was a hopeless alcoholic, or perhaps a cracked-out drug user looking for a few bucks to make that next score? How can you be so sure that either of those scenarios are what led that person from the comfort of the family home to a cold, hard pavement and a lack of hope? What may come as a surprise is that many people end up on the street after an illness or loss of a job that was their only source of income.
The recent global economic downturn saw many families pushed to the brink of financial failure, with jobs and homes lost in a very short period of time. While many may have finally clawed back to recovery, others were not so fortunate. Even those that did manage to find a job and hold onto their home are now living paycheck to paycheck, with one more financial disaster the potential tipping point that sends them out onto their own patch of the high street, homeless and helpless.
It is not just the homeless that are subjected to sweeping judgments. People with ailments, weight issues, or anything that makes them stand out in a crow are often the source of ridicule and vitriol. Again, if you are part of the group pointing the finger, ask yourself what it is about you that makes you so much better than the people you are looking down on. Yes, you may be more privileged in the finances and looks department, but if you are without compassion, then it could be argued that some of that finger pointing should be done in the mirror.
The fact of the matter is that unless we take time to talk to the people we come across every day, we will never know what sort of situation led them to their current status. The person buying groceries on food stamps may pound the pavement in search of a job every day; the overweight individual beside you may have a thyroid condition that makes it impossible for them to control their weight; that person who looks overly pale and gaunt may in fact be suffering from an illness that may eventually take their life. If you cannot take a moment to walk in their shoes, do the right thing and keep your judgments to yourself.
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