Sunday, February 26, 2012

Moments that Give me Perspective

The other day I observed a moment...someone else's moment.  Actually it was a separate moment for two other people.  In that moment I realized how our own perspective clouds the reality that exists, a reality that is sometimes not desirable.  So here is my observation of that moment:

I headed to the chiropractor after work.  I feel like I am sometimes crazy because I go to a chiropractor that is farther away from home than most would like, but I really like my doctor, so I go there, despite the distance.  Also, I sometimes don't mind the drive.  I was in the car with my darling kiddo, and stopped at a stoplight, waiting, and waiting.  I looked to my left and I saw a homeless man on the side of the street holding a cardboard sign that said, "God is love".  I did what I have done many times before, looked away quickly with a slight smile.  Why do I look away?  Am I afraid the person will think I am giving them money?  Am I afraid to lock eyes?  Am I afraid of the reality that some people must live in?  I am not sure. What I am sure of is that somehow, the reason is related to fear.  Sadly.  So as I look away I see the man, who is kind of adorable, with a beard, and kind of sweet eyes.  He was older, and looked a bit hardened by the outdoors.  He had these rosy cheeks that got round when he smiled.  I saw him look to the car next to me, and I looked to my right briefly to see her window open.  I thought she was giving him some money.  No.  She was holding a cigarette and he was asking her for one.  He started to walk toward her car and I saw her quickly mouth, "Sorry, it's my last one."  The light turned green and she drove off very quickly.

In that moment I thought about my own fear.  I wondered what I was really afraid of.  I remember being a child and being afraid of becoming homeless.  I remember thinking that I had to work hard and go to college so that I did not end up that way.  I know that might be a strange thing for a kid to fear, but I was always thinking about things like that.  In this moment on this February day I was thinking about that man. He must have a family somewhere.  How did he end up on the streets of Minneapolis holding a cardboard sign?

I know for sure that woman was afraid too.  I would bet she had more cigarettes but did not want to give him one, for fear of engaging with a  homeless man.  I bet she sped off to hopefully quickly forget about that uncomfortable moment.

I have seen people look away often from the people on the streets, and I have done it myself.  I have a feeling that "we" feel better if "we" live in denial and think that these things do not exist.  I am well aware that they do.  In my job as a teacher I have worked with many children and families who struggle and who have been in the category of "low income".  Not many people get those opportunities and for the ones I have had I am thankful.  I learn something new from each person I work with regardless of their income.

I do however, think most people prefer denial.  No one wants to think about kids who do not eat meals regularly, do not have a bed to sleep in, do not have shoes, or maybe don't have a roof over their heads.

We don't want to think about it for many reasons, but I think the main reason is that it will make us feel bad for how we live.  Maybe it will make us feel bad that we are on our way back from a shopping spree, or a haircut, or from a doctor appointment.  Maybe somewhere in our minds we know that person does not have the same luxuries in his or her life.  Is that something to feel bad about?  I am not sure.  I just know that it is something we should be aware of.  Maybe next time I am on my way back to my lovely home, and my fridge full of food, I can give that person on the street a smile.  Because, despite all the differences between him and me, he is a person.

That is what I took from that experience.  I need to remember that all people are people.  People who's experiences have led them to where they are, are no less than anyone else.  Life is about growing, and I hope these experience continue to help me grow and be thankful for all the wonderful gifts and opportunities I have been given.

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