The Perils of Judging

He’s sitting there on a bench, staring at who knows what. We’re walking by him and when he looks towards me, I become very alert and ready for a confrontation. We pass and there’s no incident. From that short anecdote, you’d think I was talking about a wild animal or serial killer, but no, I’m talking about a homeless person I walked by in San Francisco last week.

We all have a premeditation to judge, it’s something we learn over time. We see something we like, dislike, fear and then have a reaction. For me, I have an awful issue with judging the homeless while I’m away from Boston. Last week in California, I walked by dozens of homeless, some looking for spare change, others basking in the sun, but all were harmless. Most didn’t faze me, they never have in Boston, but for some reason I feel threatened by them when I’m away and it’s terrible.

From what I see, many homeless have serious mental issues and are left to fend for themselves in the urban wilderness. It’s heartbreaking that these people don’t have many places to go, just wander from spot to spot. What’s worse it their mental illness only intensifies thus making them more incapable of human interaction and finding the assistance the need.

I walked into the public restroom in San Diego and a man had finished using the sink, but his luggage was in front of a stall. When he noticed me, he quickly ran and apologized for having his stuff in front of the door. When he spoke, it was in such a soft voice, almost child-like. His reaction was akin to an abused soul who was afraid of being punished for making a mess. His voice struck a chord with me, as he was rough looking, long beard, big curly hair, but his intimidating appearance quickly eroded by his faint, troubled voice. I was devastated. I apologized for being in his way, then thanked him for moving his bag. I chastised myself for being such an asshole. These are human beings, not animals. Because I’m in a new city and uncomfortable with my surroundings doesn’t mean these people are looking to take advantage of me. For my judging them really was a sad act and my encounter only proved this. Going forward, I need to be aware of my judgments and know that 99.9% of people I meet, whomever they are, aren’t out to get my and appearances are meaningless.