Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jumping to conclusions

You get used to people trying to give you money on the street. You try not to let it bother you.  Why should you allow it to ruin your night and your mood? Only a week ago another young man came up to me after digging through his pocket, saying :”Do you need some change?”. I called home after one of these incidents to explain to my parents what was going on and why this was upsetting me. “Were you sitting up straight?- my mom said- Were you dressed nice, did you let yourself go?”. What does it have to do with anything- I thought at first- Why should it matter what people wear, how long is their hair and if they have shaved.  So what if they were hunched over. Shouldn’t we all get respect regardless? Some people can’t help how they look. Don’t we all deserve it? And quite frankly, I don’t think that any of the people who offered me cashed took the time to notice my clothing, face or pose. All they saw is my wheelchair. But then I  realized that we all do it. We all look at people and we assume things about them. In that initial 30 seconds we make our mind about people on the street and first impressions are very hard to beat. We size people up, stare them down and decide if they are worth our time. We analyze or dismiss them and pick the most obvious characteristic. You’ve done it at some point in your life and so have I. Do you always take the time to get to know somebody really well before you form an opinion?

We are trained to speak, walk, stand in a certain way for a reason. We only have one chance to make a good first impression and we are judged constantly. Everybody does it and it happens to all. It’s human nature. Attempting to read or rather skim people, figuring out if they are friend or foe and how much of a threat you really are. Often a lot of those assumptions are plainly wrong. But rarely we take the time to find out. There is an all Polish saying that says;’How they see you is how they write about you’. Perception is everything  and how we come across matters. I don’t think anybody is immune to prejudice and stereotyping. We learn about other people and their  lives everyday. Just because you’re a member of one minority doesn’t mean you understand all other forms of prejudice.  We all assume, we all jump to conclusions. That saying about making a donkey out of you and me when you do it is there for a reason. We are human and we trust what we know. My hope is that we can learn, expand our horizons and understand more.

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