by H Mac Wooten
I usually blog about education in developing countries or related subjects but, as of lately, I have been struggling with the decision to write and share a very personal, embarrassing and humiliating experience that just happened to me. Maybe this is my chance to come clean and aire my dirty laundry. A NOT funny thing happened on my way to the coliseum ….
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” John Bunyan
Everyone has heard this saying but I just got a refresher course and would like to share what it really means. I suspect we all know this idiom means that you should try to understand someone before criticizing them.
A few weeks ago, I was in one of the most expensive, powerful, opulent and impressively preeminent cities in the world. In this monumental bastion of modern society and a model for cities and countries worldwide, I walked in other’s shoes and … have never been more humiliated and embarrassed in my life.
While visiting in this city, I had to take a trip across town for a business meeting which entailed walking a few blocks as well as utilizing other aspects of a great public transportation system. I arrived at my destination approximately 45 minutes early and sat patiently and waited for the business to open. After about 30 minutes, I realized that I would soon need to relieve myself …. very soon! A quick look up and down the street in this economically challenged section of town revealed nothing in sight. I mentally flipped a coin and started walking with deliberate speed to the right. About 1 1/2 blocks down I came upon a Dollar General Store. I quickly entered and grabbed the first thing off the shelf and thought if I was a paying customer, I would easily be granted permission to use the restroom. NOT SO! I was immediately told “We ain’t got no public restroom.” I decided to ask again (possibly for a private restroom) to emphasize my growing need and was again, and now in front of everyone in the store told NO! As my situation was growing more desperate, I spotted a convenience store about a block away but received the same answer. Now moving at a semi shuffle with a bottle of shampoo and a pack of gum, I spotted a restaurant in the next block. As my luck would have it, Fried Chicken restaurants are not open at 9:27 in the morning, nor is anyone inside or if they were inside, the sight of someone with a contorted face and gyrating as they desperately beat their fist on the window was more than enough to pretend to not be inside. As time had almost run out and without any other possible choices, I started looking for anywhere even close to private or halfway secluded to go. I made it about half way across a parking lot before everything … let go. SO …. there I stood in the middle of a parking lot with, … well, you know, $hit running down both pants legs. It’s hard to convey all the scenarios and everything going through your mind at a time like this, however, I’d say it’s almost equal to everything that just went down both pant-legs.
I decided it might be prudent to skip the meeting and try to find some seclusion and formulate some kind of plan as it was about twelve blocks to the Metro and I had to change trains at L’Enfant Plaza and make it 3 stops past there. Have you ever found an empty seat in an empty car on the Metro. Huh? Didn’t think so but, as an afterthought, I bet I could have made one! I walked down and around several alleys for the next hour or so, hoping my pants would somewhat dry and my accident not be quiet so obvious, but that didn’t happen either. I finally found what appeared to be a Homeless Shelter and they let me in to clean up and try to save any hint of dignity that I once had. I spent thirty minutes trying to wash myself, my underwear and my pants in the commode and was pretty unsuccessful with that entire laundry list. During my twelve block walk back to the train station, I lived and understood the plight and experienced what many of the homeless people deal with everyday. I had a myriad of emotions go through me as I walked (facing traffic, so no one could see the back of my pants). I was mad at all the businesses for their policies and lack of humanity or compassion. I was sad that we as a society, don’t want to deal with this dirty, unsightly, invisible segment of society that sleep on park benches and heating grates and ask for a hand-outs. Then I asked myself, what would I have done? Do I or should I have the same expectations to open my home as I have judged and have expectations from one of these businesses? In all fairness, I don’t know that I would have opened my home, but Yes, I would have allowed them access at my business. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging you, I’m judging me. Prior to my incident, I had, the day before, bought food and given money to a few street people as I have in the past and will continue to do, but now I think I see their reality in a different and more personal light.
There are many reasons why people are homeless and live on the street and I wont attempt to address those reasons but I suspect very few of them choose to live on the street. Most of these people have some access to some help. Had I been in sight of the Washington Monument, I’m sure I could have found a public restroom however, the Park Police lock those restrooms at night.
Make a pledge to Help Others. Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Don’t wait until we’ve filled up our pants as it’s a little too late then. There is a segment of OUR society who are on the edge of losing all of their dignity and prevention could be in your hands and in your hearts for those who will accept help.
There are also millions of people in Developing Countries who need our help also as they have much less access to any assistance. We can’t solve all the problems and all the injustices of the world, but We Can Help and We Can Share Our Blessings and We Can Be More Compassionate To Others and We Can Teach Others.
All of us quite too often judge others by some form of yardstick, whether it is by their appearance or how much money they have or their education or social status or what kind of car they drive or where they live and the list goes on and on. Aside from “Judge not, lest ye be judged” the truth is … we judge. The reality is, if we didn’t judge, you couldn’t discipline your kids, prisons would be empty, this is/isn’t a good person to marry and you can fill in the blank for the rest of this list.
This post was not meant to be very entertaining and I still haven’t found much to laugh about but, aside from soiled pants and a bruised ego, a positive thing I have taken away from this is … don’t be too quick to judge and …… occasionally, take a walk in someone else’s shoes or pants. They might not be very comfortable. Sometimes we can find something positive even in a bad situation.
“We only have what we give.” Isabel Allende
“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond…” Jessy and Bryan Matteo
Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers in some of the poorest areas in Peru. Please visit us at www.teachateacher.org and www.teachateacher.wordpress.com and at teachateacher on Facebook.
Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher nonprofit and was walking and talking about events in Washington DC. A native of Greenville S.C. We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.
* A special thanks to Google Images which I used in this post.