“There is little room for wisdom when one is full of judgement” – Malcolm Hein

My normal route to work takes me from Barbican Road, through  Grants Pen Road to my final destination on Shortwood Road. Since the resumption of school in September, I have generally been on the road early enough that I avoid getting stuck in traffic on Grants Pen Road. However, a couple of weeks ago, as I turned on to Grants Pen Road from Barbican Road, I did encounter bumper to bumper traffic moving just a little bit faster than molasses. Since I was stuck in traffic I resorted to one of my favourite activities to pass the time :  watching the significant pedestrian population on this particular stretch of road…

As I drove over the bit of road crossing the gully, I noticed a tall heavily built man with bushy uncombed hair, wheeling a bicycle  and escorting a little boy and girl to school. The man was wearing shiny long basketball type shorts and a sleeveless shirt. He had the sort of look about him that, if you encountered him while walking, would make you want to clutch your bag a little closer, and get your car keys properly positioned in your hand in case you needed to use them as a means of self defence. So in other words, a scary looking big guy…

Minutes after this trio caught my eye, I saw the man give the little girl a resounding slap on the hand, and yell at her. Although my window was wound down, I only caught the last of his words : “…how many times I tell you don’t do that!”  The little girl who had been skipping along close to the outside edge of the sidewalk, where there was a puddle of water, moved over to the  inside of the sidewalk, and walked on, slightly ahead of the man, her small face solemn, and to me, looking like she was trying hard not to cry. By this time my car was right beside them, and I could hear the boy in conversation with the man, and calling him “Daddy”. So I concluded that this man was taking his two children to school and proceeded to judge him as a mean, violent father based on the incident I had witnessed. As I continued to inch along in the traffic, I reflected on how that poor little girl was starting off her day with a slap and scolding from her parent, and self righteously patted my self on the back for sending my own two daughters off to school with hugs and love, and wishes for them to have a good day. The man continued to walk with his bicycle on the outer edge of the sidewalk, and the kids on the inside…

A little before the turn off to Morgan Lane, the man stopped on the sidewalk, and moved his bicycle on to the road, pointing towards the opposite side of the road. Thinking he was going to cross the road, I slowed my crawling pace to a complete stop, to allow him and the children passage. The man motioned with his hands to his two children to stay on the sidewalk. he then wheeled his bicycle out onto the road, positioned at right angles to oncoming traffic. When he got to the middle of the road, he waited for the car travelling in the opposite direction to stop.  He then moved his bicycle a little further, and put it between him and the car that had just stopped. Then to my surprise, he did not motion to his children to cross the road, but beckoned to another little boy on the opposite sidewalk , that I had not seen before, to cross the road. This little boy, dressed in khaki uniform, with knapsack on his back may have been a year or two older than his two children, but he was walking without an adult. The big man escorted the little boy safely across the road, carefully keeping himself between the boy and the vehicular traffic the entire way.  Once they both reached the other side, the little boy in khaki continued on his way to school, in the opposite direction to the man and his two children who resumed their journey.

This big scary looking man that I had just rushed to judge as being violent and unkind, had not only noticed, but went out of his way, to assist another child who needed help. I felt ashamed of myself for the quick judgement I had passed. How many “better people” in cars would have driven past that little boy, and many other little school children waiting to cross the road, without even noticing, much less going out of their way to assist. Indeed, I was so busy passing judgement, I myself had not seen the little boy waiting to cross. When I stopped judging, I also realised that the entire foot journey up Grants Pen Road, that man had made sure to have his children on the inside of the sidewalk.  His body and the bicycle protected them from any vehicular traffic that might stray from the road onto the sidewalk. It further dawned on me that perhaps the slap and harsh words I had witnessed earlier may have been because the little girl had ventured dangerously close to the  outer edge of the side-walk.

When we rush to judge without appreciating all the circumstances, as I did that morning, we fail to see the the incredible goodness and kindness that exists in this world. Good people can make mistakes, and do bad things sometimes. When we rush to judge people based on actions we perceive to be evil without stopping to understand what motivated that action,  we miss the opportunity to see that there are good kind people who go out of their way to protect the vulnerable among us. There is darkness in all of us and if we only focus on that darkness,  it will become strong enough to overpower the light. If we can make a conscious effort to recognise and nurture the goodness in people, we can generate enough light to overcome the darkness. When we are full of judgement, there is room for neither wisdom nor understanding.

 

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