A Baby, a Beggar, and one Left Turn

I was driving in a bad mood. I don’t even remember what was wrong. I guess something in my entitled privileged life wasn’t working out the way I wanted. Even the smiling cooing eight month old baby in the backseat couldn’t break up the dark gloomy clouds over my head.

In a lineup of at least half a dozen cars, we waited for our turn to turn left. Up ahead, I saw him; the bearded dirty man begging on the median, touting his handwritten cardboard sign; a sign that likely said something about being hungry and needing money. In a split second, I judged everything about him; his relative abilities, mental state, education level, and general worth as a human being.

I pleaded with the left turn arrow to stay green so I wouldn’t have to decide if I was giving him money. “Please, please, one more car – keep going, oh come on, moron!” Perhaps it was divine intervention, but the white haired man in front of me obeyed the yellow light and chose to wait.

Ironically enough, we pulled up right along side the beggar; he was about two feet from our car. Instead of acknowledging the existence of another human in close proximity, I chose to suddenly fumble with something in the glove box.

But my son saw him. My son made eye contact with him. I heard “ba ba ba ba ba” as he pointed to the smiling man, who waved back.

Still in an ugly foul mood, I said, “Yes, Eli, he should be working, he does have two arms and two legs that work! Instead of that sign, he could be holding a pizza sign or advertising something and getting paid!”

But that wasn’t what my innocent son was saying at all.
I saw the nuisance. He saw the person.

Suddenly, I was horribly ashamed of myself and my judgments. An embarrassed wave of enlightenment washed over me. God only knows the circumstances that brought this man to this point in his life. He is someone’s son or brother, maybe husband or father. Who am I to judge this man and his worth?

An angry car horn from somewhere behind me snapped me out of my epiphany. I have never forgotten how I felt in that moment. I wanted to stop my car and hug that man. But I didn’t.

My little boy reminded me that everyone deserves respect and love. Babies are laughing, jiggling masses that radiate innocent, pure love. They are a little like dogs that way. They don’t judge a person’s worth by what they do for a living; they love regardless.

Researchers at Princeton discovered that, in a blink of an eye, upon seeing a new face, our adult brains decide whether a person is attractive, trustworthy, and potentially how educated a person is. Babies do not do this. They see a new face, and they smile.

Sitting in a taxi with my son in San Francisco, I was reminded again of that shameful left turn moment. Our taxi driver, with his thick Indian accent and head dress, was an imposing man at first glance. We could have stayed in awkward silence as my son slept, but this time, I turned my judgment into curiosity and initiated conversation.  I learned all about this amazing, intelligent man from Sri Lanka who was working two jobs to bring the rest of his family to America.

H. Jackson Brown Jr. said it best, “Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.” As a parent, I want to teach my children about the world, but if I am present and attuned, my children might just teach me the most valuable lessons of all.

TAKE AWAY POINT – Become more aware of the snap judgments you make every day about people around you and remember to love unconditionally like a baby does.

Until next time.