Hardly Evil at All

I bet if you took all the evil people in the world and laid them end to end (but not in any dirty kind of way), you would be surprised to find that not one of them was Me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

(Guest Host) Pretendra: shame on me (in which I discover that I've mis-judged a person based on appearance)

I've spent many years and countless hours interacting with people whose behavior served to reinforce stereotypes projected by their appearance.  A change occurred in me, and new walls went up,  so gradually that I didn't even know it had happened.
When I saw a muscley young white male, covered in tattoos, with an altered level of consciousness, and vital signs strongly indicative of illicit drug use, overdose, and/or withdrawal, I didn't mean to think twice about it.  In my line of work, this whole scenario is pretty common, and I've been proud of myownself for understanding that drug, alcohol, and even nicotine addictions are powerful and often devastating to those who suffer (yes-SUFFER) from them.  
Concerned family members frequented his bedside at every opportunity, and I wondered vaguely if one of them had discovered him unresponsive, how many times they had been through this with him before, and how many times they would be willing to repeat it before giving up on him.
For seven nights I marched back and forth, past the glass doors that separated him from me and the rest of the world, past the doors that proved completely ineffective against condemnation.  He lay there for seven nights, alone, critically ill, in all likelihood frightened and in pain, unable to communicate his feelings or needs, yet I pitied him not one bit.  I did not feel the pangs of empathy or concern that I usually feel, and I continued to make silent assumptions regarding his character.
My own shortcomings allowed me to look at this PERSON, this fellow human being, repeatedly, without SEEING him, without caring.
A great shame filled my heart when I admitted to myself what I'd done... Who or WHAT had I become when I wasn't paying attention?
It makes no difference whether the conclusions I had drawn were correct (they weren't), or that he will never know I had drawn any conclusions about him at all because his care and treatment would not be affected (they weren't).  
Life-altering moments are more common than they seem, but it's up to us individually to summon the courage to go all the way through the glass doors, receptive to the growth and change waiting for us on the other side.         
That young man will never know how big a role he played in rescuing me from ever-increasing apathy, leading me back to the path of universality of the human condition, and giving ME another chance to be a better person. 

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