Think Twice Before You Judge

August 26 2018

We have heard the old saying a million times… “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. But how many people actually listen to this advice?
 
I’ve found that we often need to be a little more sensitive to our knee jerk reaction of judging. Instead, we should focus on being a little more aware that we have no idea what most people are going through.

I heard an analogy from a speaker about 30 years ago, and it stuck with me, so hopefully it will stick with you too:
 
Imagine you are stuck in slow moving traffic and a red sports car comes zooming past you and weaving in and out of traffic and driving recklessly. What would you think? How would that change your mood? Well at first, I thought, “What a loser! This guy is going to cause an accident. He must be drinking or on drugs.” It made me feel kind of angry and probably elevated my blood pressure, putting me in more of a negative space since I was already feeling anxious about being stuck in traffic.
 
Then imagine that you are stuck in traffic and you have the radio on. An interruption comes up to say that a father is on the highway and trying to get through traffic to get to the hospital. His baby is having a seizure and needs medical attention immediately, so if you see him coming, please move aside.
 
Well…..wow! Did that ever change my whole demeanor. That’s a bit of an extreme example but I went from angry to empathetic.
 
We simply do not know the circumstances behind situations and people in general.

A couple of years ago when I was working with United Way, I went to a homeless camp that was being dismantled. The deadline came and after more than a month of warnings, the police and city workers came to take it down. I know that many, if not most of these people were on drugs, but how did they come to be where they are now?

Surely, no one would choose to live on the streets in a dilapidated tent with nothing but the clothes on their back. Some don’t have a chance….perhaps they have been abused at home, kicked out, or have a mental handicap with no one to advocate for them. There are countless scenarios as to why people end up in such a deprived living condition.
 
I know it’s sometimes challenging to have empathy because we see so much homelessness now that comes with all kinds of issues that affect us negatively. Sometimes, we don’t feel safe anymore. Many homeless people are on drugs and steal our possessions for their next fix. I have had family members who have been broken into, bikes and other valuable stuff stolen. Every time I see a vagrant looking person riding down the street on a nice bike I think, is that my nephews bike which was stolen? Yes, it does make me angry too. But I’m also angry that society has let it come down to this. Homelessness and the drug problems are exponentially higher than ever!
 
I wish I had some answers to fix the problem, but I don’t. However, if each of us individually changes our paradigm of thinking, I believe we can dramatically improve as a society.
 
Anyway….I somehow got the nerve to go to the homeless shelter that was being dismantled to hand out United Way’s 211 cards. 211 is a number to call for non-emergency cases such as information for seniors who need help, domestic or child abuse, temporary funding support, emergency food and shelter, and things of that nature.

As I was handing these cards out, most people didn’t want to hear what I had to say. I don’t know why, maybe they have just lost faith for people out there to help, or maybe they just didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Their camp of many months was being torn down, and now they had nowhere to go.
 
One young man, all filthy and looking like he hadn’t bathed in a long time, politely said thank you as I handed him the card. Normally, I am a big chicken and was surprised that I even went to this camp. However, I asked him to call the number and if he didn’t have a phone then I could call it for him.

He said, “Thank you, I will think about it.” I asked him how long he had been homeless and he said nearly a year. Then he proceeded to tell me that his parents split up and his dad took off. His mom had no job and got caught up in drugs. He told me that he didn’t have a very high IQ and couldn’t get a job. So, he was eating out of dumpsters and sleeping in a tent wherever he could find a spot where he didn’t get kicked out. One day a drug dealer approached him and offered him free drugs just because he felt sorry for him (so he said). The next thing he knew he was addicted and coerced to sell drugs to make money to feed his newly addicted habit.
 
So next time….think twice before you judge.

August 26, 2018

We have heard the old saying a million times… “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. But how many people actually listen to this advice?
 
I’ve found that we often need to be a little more sensitive to our knee jerk reaction of judging. Instead, we should focus on being a little more aware that we have no idea what most people are going through.

I heard an analogy from a speaker about 30 years ago, and it stuck with me, so hopefully it will stick with you too:
 
Imagine you are stuck in slow moving traffic and a red sports car comes zooming past you and weaving in and out of traffic and driving recklessly. What would you think? How would that change your mood? Well at first, I thought, “What a loser! This guy is going to cause an accident. He must be drinking or on drugs.” It made me feel kind of angry and probably elevated my blood pressure, putting me in more of a negative space since I was already feeling anxious about being stuck in traffic.
 
Then imagine that you are stuck in traffic and you have the radio on. An interruption comes up to say that a father is on the highway and trying to get through traffic to get to the hospital. His baby is having a seizure and needs medical attention immediately, so if you see him coming, please move aside.
 
Well…..wow! Did that ever change my whole demeanor. That’s a bit of an extreme example but I went from angry to empathetic.
 
We simply do not know the circumstances behind situations and people in general.

A couple of years ago when I was working with United Way, I went to a homeless camp that was being dismantled. The deadline came and after more than a month of warnings, the police and city workers came to take it down. I know that many, if not most of these people were on drugs, but how did they come to be where they are now?

Surely, no one would choose to live on the streets in a dilapidated tent with nothing but the clothes on their back. Some don’t have a chance….perhaps they have been abused at home, kicked out, or have a mental handicap with no one to advocate for them. There are countless scenarios as to why people end up in such a deprived living condition.
 
I know it’s sometimes challenging to have empathy because we see so much homelessness now that comes with all kinds of issues that affect us negatively. Sometimes, we don’t feel safe anymore. Many homeless people are on drugs and steal our possessions for their next fix. I have had family members who have been broken into, bikes and other valuable stuff stolen. Every time I see a vagrant looking person riding down the street on a nice bike I think, is that my nephews bike which was stolen? Yes, it does make me angry too. But I’m also angry that society has let it come down to this. Homelessness and the drug problems are exponentially higher than ever!
 
I wish I had some answers to fix the problem, but I don’t. However, if each of us individually changes our paradigm of thinking, I believe we can dramatically improve as a society.
 
Anyway….I somehow got the nerve to go to the homeless shelter that was being dismantled to hand out United Way’s 211 cards. 211 is a number to call for non-emergency cases such as information for seniors who need help, domestic or child abuse, temporary funding support, emergency food and shelter, and things of that nature.

As I was handing these cards out, most people didn’t want to hear what I had to say. I don’t know why, maybe they have just lost faith for people out there to help, or maybe they just didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Their camp of many months was being torn down, and now they had nowhere to go.
 
One young man, all filthy and looking like he hadn’t bathed in a long time, politely said thank you as I handed him the card. Normally, I am a big chicken and was surprised that I even went to this camp. However, I asked him to call the number and if he didn’t have a phone then I could call it for him.

He said, “Thank you, I will think about it.” I asked him how long he had been homeless and he said nearly a year. Then he proceeded to tell me that his parents split up and his dad took off. His mom had no job and got caught up in drugs. He told me that he didn’t have a very high IQ and couldn’t get a job. So, he was eating out of dumpsters and sleeping in a tent wherever he could find a spot where he didn’t get kicked out. One day a drug dealer approached him and offered him free drugs just because he felt sorry for him (so he said). The next thing he knew he was addicted and coerced to sell drugs to make money to feed his newly addicted habit.
 
So next time….think twice before you judge.

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