Like every little girl, I learnt a variety of things from my environment – Manners, values, temperament, etc.
I also learnt a lot of my faults.
One day on our way to the grocery store, my Mother and I were approached by a shirtless young boy who asked if we could help him out with some change.
In an attempt to impress my Mom, I quickly pulled out a few coins and handed it over to him.
My Mom’s face lit up, and I said to her, “Mama, isn’t it so sad that he has so little?”
My Mom’s expression completely changed and I was sure that she was pissed off. Recognising that I picked up on her body language, she asked me to sit on the steps so she could ask me a few questions.
I complied and she began, “So why do you think he has little?”
I was perplexed by her question, I mean, his misery was apparent. So I pointed it out just as innocently.
She replied, “Sure, he hasn’t the clothes you wear or the food you eat, but don’t you see that he is free to do as he pleases? Don’t you see that he has already learnt how to tackle life’s challenges more than us?”
I was taken aback by her train of thought.
She elaborated further. “Society has only given us the material things to count when we accumulate wealth. But imagine, by some twist of fate, you and I find ourselves on the street, would we be able to cope as well as this boy? Would you know how to take care of yourself right now if I let go of your hand?”
I understood what she meant, I could by no means even cross the street without my mother, and he was dealing with life at its extreme.
With the wealth I had, I could survive my day; but this boy had the kind of wealth that would help him survive a lifetime.
I realised my folly and promised to be more careful in the future.
But who is to say that?
It is only my limited perception due to the values inculcated in me by the society.
Surely, if I hadn’t witnessed elders behave the way I did, I would have instead had a chat with him, for all I know, I would have even wanted to know what his life is all about.
But instead, I pitied him and lost my chance at getting to learn a brand new skill.
All because I believed that I am better off than him. That I can look down upon him.
This episode was just as shameful then, as its recollection is now.
The good news is….
Following this episode, I viewed every individual as equal, in fact, I wanted to learn from those who were most different than myself.
People who have lived a contrasting life and learnt to smile anyway.
I understood that circumstances are only circumstances and it is foolish to compare those.
If I want to feel inspired by another individual, I must observe their responses to situations and learn how to apply them in my own life.
My Father once told me, every individual is a collection of experiences, they can teach far more than a book.
You just need to pay attention.