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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Separating the person from the predicament

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I’ve learned something over the years: not all people who find themselves in unfortunate or challenging circumstances, are bad people.

What is bad, however, is their specific situation that may seemingly have no easy escape.

Separating the person from the predicament is key to discovering the true depth of someone.

Have you ever seen a crack-addicted person walking down the street? What was your initial thought of that person? Was it disgust, pity, anger, or sadness? Or did you think nothing at all of this person because they weren’t someone you knew?

Every time I see a crack-addicted person, I immediately feel sad because I know that living such an existence was never on their “things I want to be when I grow up” list. I don’t know of one crack-head who actually wants to be a crack-head. But I do know of people who are addicted to crack and find themselves in a very difficult predicament – one that they think will never end because of the tremendous dependence they have for the drug.

Consider this.

There are some children who live in sub par conditions. Because they don’t have parents who invest consistent time in them, these children aren’t as “polished” as others in their age group. Instead, they may behave in ways that some might consider “unruly” or even “ghetto.”

Since these children lack the parental guidance of loving caretakers, their behavior is a result of their current life’s situation. It doesn’t mean the way they are as children will be the way they turn out as adults, it simply means that because they are children, they can’t be held responsible for their parents’ lack of teaching.

Despite the fact that children are children and they learn by example (or lack thereof), I’ve witnessed countless people be discriminatory towards certain children simply because they were “different.”

I’ll never forget the comment I heard from an affluent and highly respected woman in her Mississippi community once say. As she volunteered at a local nonprofit, children ages 5 – 7 gathered around her during story time. When she finished reading the story, she asked for the kids to share their thoughts of the book. One by one, each child enthusiastically and rather articulately commented. The whole time, there was a little boy sitting towards the back of the semi-circle who kept raising his hand to be called upon. His clothes weren’t as neatly ironed as the other children, his nose was runny, and his hair was disheveled. Once I noticed that the woman either hadn’t seen the boy’s hand, or didn’t want to call on him, I nicely stated that he wanted to share his thoughts. Acting as if she’d not seen the child, the woman called on him to comment on the story.

After the story-telling session was over and I was walking out of the classroom with the woman, she said, “Can you believe that boy! He looked filthy and couldn’t speak correctly for his age. How did he get involved in this program? He’s someone who will be robbing people 10 years from now – I can tell.”

At a rather youthful age at the time, I found myself shocked that a woman of such prestige was so ignorant.

I happened to know that the boy was involved in the exemplary program through a scholarship that was given for under-privileged children. I also knew that the boy’s mother wasn’t as involved in his life as most parents, but that he had a grandmother who tried the best she could to expose him to opportunities whenever possible. His grandmother was the person who signed him up for the program.

Simply because this child wasn’t as “together” as his peers didn’t mean that he would live a life of crime when he was older. What the woman failed to realize was that although he was in a difficult predicament then, that didn’t mean he’d be a product of his environment always. Nor did it mean that he was a bad child.

We have to stop surmising that one’s predicament is who that person really is. Rather, it would behoove of us to consider a person’s circumstance, help them work towards a tangible solution to their problem, and base any opinions of them on their personal characteristics instead of their predicament.

Everyone’s life is different. Some of us make mistakes that are irreversible, while others of us get passes. Even still, some of us, such as the aforementioned boy, are faced with circumstances beyond our control. As we all approach the New Year, let’s strive to separate the person from the predicament…doing so is the fairest way to be objective.

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