Well, it finally happened. Erinn and I were running some banking errands the other day. It was crazy hot so as she went into a building to get something, I waited in the shade at the next place we needed to go to. As I’m sitting there, minding my own business, watching the world go by, a man walked up and handed me a toonie. “There you go”, he said. I was like, “oh I’m not homeless man.” He then took his toonie, apologized to me, and walked away.
Interestingly enough though, I wasn’t surprised that this happened. In fact, my only surprise has been that this hasn’t happened to me yet up until now. I see many people begging for money on the street while sitting in a wheelchair or on a mobility scooter. And I often feel as though I don’t look that different from them. So I have wondered on more than a few occasions whether or not people think that I am homeless. But this was the first time it actually came to fruition that someone for sure thought that I was panning and therefore offered me money.
On one hand I felt bad for the guy that he was embarrassed to have offered me money and then found out that I wasn’t asking for it. On the other hand, I felt kind of annoyed that he talked so down and patronizing to me when he offered me that coin. He kind of talked to me as though I were a child.
“Do I do that when I give money to folks?”, I wondered.
Geez I hope not.
I was also kind of annoyed that he assumed I was begging for money by the mere fact that I was in a wheelchair. He was making so many assumptions about me just because I was in disabled.
Again I wondered, “do I do that sometimes? Do I make assumptions about people just because of the way they look?“
Geez I hope not.
But I suspect I do.
I wondered a few more things about myself as I reflect on that encounter. “Do I dress in such a way that I look homeless? Should I up my clothing game just a little bit? Or should I be pleased that I look like I could be mistaken for someone who is homeless? And what does someone who is homeless even look like?“
It was this last question that became most important to me. It made me remember yet again that there is no ‘us and them’. I am a human being just like everyone else. Someone could be poor/homeless and dress a whole lot better than I do. Someone also could be poor/homeless and dress a whole lot worse. Either way it doesn’t give me the right to pass judgement on a person based on how they look. People are so much more than how they dress, if they can walk or if they are in a wheelchair, if they are black or white or gay or straight or male or female or non-binary or in a shelter or in a home.
I was thankful yet again in this awkward situation for that reminder.
I was also remember that you cannot go assuming things about somebody else.
Everyone knows what happens when assuming things about other people;
it makes a ‘ming’ out of an ‘assu’