That I Be Not Judged

When I began this blog (seems like an eternity ago), I recall dithering over whether or not to allow Comments, as other blogs did. My reticence was born of the fact that I'd participated in online discussion boards which nine times out of ten ended up in minutiaic discussions on how to best split hairs or flamewars. The decision was made for me by the terms of use on Greensboro 101, which required that Comments be enabled.

I'm glad I did enable those Comments. I'm always learning something.

Specifically, the mighty kat confirmed something I was afraid was slowly occurring, but didn't want to admit: I was becoming judgmental. I Forgot Where I Came From. I Failed To Walk In The Other Guy's Shoes (pardon the pun).

I got...judgy.

To wit: you recall, two posts ago, I rated an (ostensibly*) homeless guy using the Shoe Test Cara taught me as a set of criterion, among others, in making a decision whether or not to help him. I eventually decided not to.* kat nailed me good; I could've tried to glean more information. Becuase I didn't, I apparently slid myself right into that same pigeonhole that other less enlightened people were comfortably nestled in.

The clincher came from gtv. Yeah, the guy's arrogant sometimes (by his own admission), but he was on the money with his Comment. Here's the part that grabbed me, in his own words:

First I listen to their pitch and based on their
demeanor, sincerity AND their tone of voice to determine the integrity of the
person. For example, a normal person and a crackhead could say the exact same
thing like "I'm homeless, I need help for me and my family, and could you please
spare any change you may have kind sir?", but the former would look me in the
eye when saying it, isn't pushy and seems to be genuine in their plea for help
while the latter looks, acts and talks like a crackhead! I have also, on
occasion, asked if they would like to share their story with me over lunch (my
treat) and some have accepted the offer. You'd be amazed what you could learn
just by talking to people. You'd be just as amazed what you might be missing out
on by just looking at their shoes...

I remember my interviews with Tim and Ron. Both of them looked me in the eye as we talked. Neither liked being homeless, but there was that spark of "This isn't the end of me" in their eye. I doubt a liar or a crackhead could fake that kind of defiance of circumstance.

As they say on South Park, "I learned something today." The ugly something is that I'm slipping back into judgementalism. I have to watch that. The pretty something is that fakers can be discovered with just a little personal contact, or at least, much closer observation.

Always good to be snapped back into place by one's peers. Thanks, guys.

*Now, I'll still use the term ostensibly because we do have some fakers around here. The N&R did a story on them some years ago, and I think the local Fox affiliate did a short on-air article as well. There is a small minority of people, for whatever reason, that do try to beat the system by panhandling, although they have the wherewithal not to.

**In going back over the post, I find I neglected to mention that we were several lanes away from the guy in heavy traffic. I couldn't have helped him regardless. Not without causiing a wreck, anyway.

To clarify, there is no "shoe test." We had a conversation about whether to give money to a panhandler on the street or at a stoplight and how do you know who's in need, and I commented that clothing and shoes sometimes give you a clue. But that's not foolproof and it's not a "test." (There's no way to tell just by looking if someone is homeless or in need.) I know panhandlers who are homeless and panhandlers who have housing but still panhandle to make money. In general (but not always), the clothing and shoes of the housed panhandlers are cleaner and less worn than those of the homeless panhandlers. But again, that's not some guaranteed method for determining need. The best way to help someone in need is to sit down with them, listen to their story, follow up on what they tell you, and try to find the best resources for what their needs are. If you're unable to do that yourself, there's probably an agency or organization in your town that can. Find out who that is, and point them there for assistance. You may ask, "All this, when someone asks me for a dollar?" Well, if the same person is asking for a dollar every day, then yeah, all that. If you want to help somebody, you need to get to the root of the problem.
Wow! I can't believe it's been more than a month since my last visit to your blog, but it seems to be the case! The funny thing is that for some reason or another I was wondering about my last comment earlier today and what ultimately resulted from it! Now I know!

So, all I'll say is this: I'm glad I was able to help.
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