There are so many opportunities on a day to day basis to be kind to one another. Unfortunately… there are an equal amount of opportunities to be cruel. Even more unfortunate is the fact that more often than not, people on average tend to choose the latter. Not intentionally in most cases, many times the choice to not do the kind thing is an act of self preservation.
After all, that guy standing on the street corner with the cardboard sign is just gonna take your money and go buy some drugs or alcohol with it anyway, right? Are you sure? Do you know him? Have you watched him leave his post with someone else’s hard earned cash in hand and go straight to the liquor store or over to another street corner for some kind of exchange that must be drugs? Have you met him? You’re so sure that handing him a dollar or two is going to be misused, you must know his name…
Oh, you don’t? Then how do you know his intentions? How do you know that he isn’t a military vet that fought in the war and came home to find that there are no jobs available and his small children need food and out of desperation he’s swallowed his pride to stand there with his cardboard sign while he waits on the ten or twenty job applications he’s put in this week to offer a reply? How do you know that he didn’t get laid off from a job he thought was secure, only to learn that he’s “overqualified” for anything that’s available, and what he’s perfectly qualified for isn’t hiring? (And yes… companies will deny people for being overqualified…)
What about that lady at the counter that just swiped her food stamp card and is counting out pennies for her laundry detergent. She just uses her food stamps for junk food anyway, right? Are you sure? Do you see junk food in her groceries? Do you see children with her? Are there groceries there to provide their needs? Should they go without being able to snack on the same chips and cookies you’re giving your child because their parent(s) is/are going through a hard time right now? Have you ever been a school aged child that had to go without because of financial troubles with your parents?
And that girl in the short booty shorts walking away from that group of guys sending out their cat-calls and making inappropriate comments, she’s just trying to get attention anyway with the way she’s dressed! Right? Are you sure? Do you know her financial situation and how much money she has for clothes? Do you know her upbringing or her history? Is it hot outside today? Are those shorts cut? How do you know that she didn’t cut the shorts from a pair of jeans because of the heat and a lack of money to get some shorts and accidentally cut too short, but didn’t have enough pants to cut into shorts to try again? How do you know that the offensive remarks being made toward her aren’t bringing up in her mind a memory of a horrible experience in her lifetime?
We’re so quick to judge one another by appearances and by past burns and hurts that we forget to be kind. We avoid eye contact with the man on the street corner holding up his concrete sign. We cough and clear our throats in impatient frustration toward the mom with the food stamp card as she counts out her change to finish her purchase. We roll our eyes at the audacity of the girl in the short shorts at “pretending” to be offended by comments that should offend her.
We do it every day. That man on the street corner sees you busying yourself with something in your console so you don’t have to look at him. The mom with three hungry kids counting out change hears your throat clearing judgments being passed against her. The young woman in the shorts sees your annoyed look as you pass by her. While these are your reactions based on what you see and what you’ve experienced with other people in the past, to the people on the receiving end of your inaction, it’s cruel. You’ve dehumanized these people without knowing them.
So the next time you pull up to a red light and see a man on a street corner holding up a cardboard sign, smile at him. Give him a dollar. Ask him his name and tell him you’re going to pray for him for a better situation to come his way, and then pray for him.
When you get in line behind the mom with the food stamp card counting out her change, look at her kids. Don’t look at her or what she has, look at the fact that she has kids. Slip a five dollar bill to the cashier while she’s digging around in her purse looking for more quarters. What could it hurt? That card can’t pay for the laundry detergent anyway.
And when you hear the disrespectful comments and see the flustered face of the girl with the shorts, smile at her and wave, and then make sure that she understands that you understand her by not rolling your eyes.
In one study of a group of survivors of suicide attempts, 7 out of 10 of the survivors stated that if one person, just one, had just smiled at them once they probably wouldn’t have tried to end their lives. 9 out of 10 said that once they had performed the act that they thought would kill them and thought that they were dying, they realized they wanted to live.
Don’t let past burns cause you to fear the fire… let them teach you to respect it. And out of your respect for the fire that is humanity, perform acts of kindness. One smile, one anonymous act of generosity, one offer for prayer and a couple dollars could save a life.
Isn’t that worth taking the risk on people for?