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Social Observations: Lessons Learned


Social Observations: Lessons Learned

When it comes to observing people, places and things, one definitely needs a sense of humor. Every day, we see a multitude of events and interactions that may or may not register with us. But…every once in a while, something tickles our funny bone to the point that we will forever relish the memory of that moment when we seized fate by the hand and took unsuspecting and seemingly innocent bystanders down that fateful path to the unknown.

There are also events which leave us with an indelible sense of sadness, looking back on what we could have done or should have done to help someone.

This series of articles are about those events……the ones that leave you laughing, shaking your head in wonder, perplexed, just plain speechless or left with an incredible lesson learned.

Not too long ago, my husband and I were on vacation and happened to be in a fast food restaurant. As we all know, people from all walks of life frequent these chains. My husband and I are not rich by any definition, but we are able to make ends meet and have an occasional few dollars extra for a little entertainment. This vacation had been a long awaited event and we had saved and saved for this trip. We paid for our room in advance and we had allocated money for meals each day and for a little “fun spending” while we were away.

We drove to our vacation destination, which took a total of 18 hours. We were tired and were on our second leg of the drive. While we were dining and talking at this restaurant, a homeless man entered the restaurant; we did not see him until he approached our table. He came to the table and in a very low voice, he began asking for money. He had a small amount of change in his hand and was holding his hand out. Without thinking, I said, “Please don’t disturb us while we are eating.” He walked away and the manager came to the dining area and escorted the man to the door. As I watched him cross the parking lot, I became sad. I continued to watch as he crossed the street and disappeared from view. I sat motionless, stunned by my own response to this man. A second opportunity to learn presented itself when we were in another fast food restaurant and a family of 3 came in. They were wearing very inexpensive clothes that did not fit very well. The dad was unkempt with long, thinning hair pulled back in a pony tail and was wearing a pair of older sweatpants and “T” shirt. The mom was also wearing older sweatpants and a “T” shirt. The son was wearing clothing that was much too big for him and had a cap on his head. Their shoes were worn and old. I watched them for a short time wondering what their circumstances were. What happened next was a surprise……something happened that made me look their way. The dad engaged me in a very brief and very courteous conversation. The mom smiled warmly and joined in for a brief exchange. Their son was quiet and I got the impression that he may not have had an easy time of it with his peers. The conversation ended with, “Have a good day, ma’am”. I wished them a great afternoon and our conversation ended. They left the restaurant and got into a very old car that was probably held together with prayer.

What I had done with the homeless man was turn away someone who may have needed a meal that I could have easily purchased. While I thought about the family of 3 that we encountered, I discovered that I may have been judging them based upon their appearance, hoping if that was the case, that my body language did not reveal what may have been going through my mind. I happen to be a Christian and after these two encounters, I didn’t feel like I was acting in accordance with a few of the Ten Commandments. I was disappointed in my own thoughts and actions. There are the kinds of moments that will either confirm someone to be justified in their negative reactions or, will propel us forward to make a different kind of change. I can tell you that my reactions were not justified. When the next opportunity presents itself, I will respond much differently. There are many people that are in need, that are very kind and are thankful for what little that they have.

The things that I can do to make a difference are:

  • Support area food banks and shelters with monetary gifts.
  • Buy a stranger a meal when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Be kind to a stranger and be careful to not judge.

The most important thing that we can all remember is, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

May you be blessed today, tomorrow and always.

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