I had a few hours to wait for some service to be done on my car, so walked up U.S. from Coggin Honda in St. Augustine to Panera Bread in Cobblestone Village. It was a really nice morning, so I didn’t mind the walk at all. I was wearing a pair of jeans, a hoodie, some old sneakers, my backpack containing some things to read and work on when I got to my coffee destination.
On the way I passed a number of people walking and riding bikes. After a few nods and “Hi’s” I realized that I looked just like them. You wouldn’t think that would be a revelation. But when I am driving along that same stretch of road, my mind immediately assigns the label “homeless” to these folks. Now on foot, I wondered, “I wonder what label they’re putting on me?”
Not my name. Not my profession. Not someone having their car serviced. Not someone on their way for coffee. They know nothing about where I live, my relationships, my faith, or how healthy I am.
I don’t know that about them, either. That’s a good reminder when I begin to assume they don’t have a home, don’t have a job, and haven’t had a meal. Or when I characterize them as not having relationships, education or ambition. It doesn’t take much to visually characterize someone in a negative way. It doesn’t take much at all.
I don’t like that about myself. I don’t like the way my mind immediately sizes someone up, usually in a disparaging way. I don’t even know where that tendency comes from. Where did I learn that?
It’s good to walk around in jeans and a t-shirt, being seen – but not known. It disciplines my heart and mind so that I am not so quick to draw conclusions. It clears my head of shallow assumptions. It helps me notice rather than look through those around me. It teaches me humility, kindness and grace. Cause when it comes down to it, I am just like them.