One of my faults is that I am highly moralistic. It’s a problem for me during times like now, because it can blind me from remembering that we all just don’t see things the same.
After years of sociology and social work classes and reading, I know that the reality is that there is no reality. We are all raised differently, fed differently, loved (or not) differently. Our experiences in this life are so unique that they could never be replicated, which is why even siblings from the same parents or conditions can find vast differences between their lives.
Even knowing this, it is sometimes still hard for me to understand why what is clearly right or wrong to me is not clearly right or wrong to everyone.
So yesterday as I watched a homeless black man get the police called on him, I didn’t know what else to do, except tell him that they had been called before they had a chance to get there.
I didn’t know him, but I as I bagged my groceries and watched him I saw him get ignored, I saw him get shut down, and then I saw him begin to offer to help return peoples carts in exchange for the quarter that it would yield.
He seemingly posed no threat. He certainly wasn’t harassing anyone. He had quick and clearly polite conversations with many people walking in and out of the store. With some people it seemed like he simply said hello.
I had watched him for maybe 5 minutes and could see that. I wondered why the manager who called the cops couldn’t. I wondered why she didn’t just go out there and talk to him… or maybe offer him a drink and a sandwich. I wondered why she didn’t see that calling the police on this man could endanger him for no reason depending on who showed up. I wondered why she didn’t just try to be a steward of her community instead of calling the police over for a non emergency situation.
I felt anger bubbling up inside of me because it all just seemed so wrong… So as I exited, I handed him what I had for him, and told him that the cops were called on him… and then I sat in the parking lot to make sure he left safely.
Maybe to someone else that was the wrong thing to do. Maybe someone else would have done more. In fact looking back, I wish I would have at least spoken to the manager.
I can’t speak to what others may think about my choice, and I decided in the car that I shouldn’t have spoken (even if in my mind) to what that woman’s choices were either, because I don’t know her. I didn’t even bother to speak to her, the same way she didn’t bother to speak to the man outside the store.
What I do know, is that as we stand here in this moment of what will be a historic year… we have to do more than wonder. And we have to be willing to do what we think is right, every time. Even if it’s small.
But more importantly we have to be willing to see where we could do more. We truly just have to be willing.