The other week, I was out shopping when I walked into a store and found a man staggering in the corner of the shop. He looked in some pain. The shopkeepers hadn’t noticed him, so I alerted them and they came over just as another woman entered the store. She too saw the man in trouble and reacted quickly, immediately going to look for help.
I wasn’t sure if the man was ill. His clothes suggested that he was living on the streets, but he seemed to be having some kind of seizure. An ambulance was called, whilst he was helped to the floor and came around. He was assisted by the shopping centre security guards, who tried to speak to him. They spoke to him in a patronising way and when they spoke to the paramedics, quickly dismissed him as simply having “taken too much of something.”
It reminded me of a story my uncle told me about when he was younger. He’s a diabetic and was out one night, when he had a Hypo and ended up collapsing. He was dismissed by the police as a drunkard, when crying for help. He didn’t come home until the early hours after his blood sugar levels had returned to normal.
We can be quick to judge other people when we don’t know their story.
It’s an unhelpful stereotype to think that all homeless people have substance abuse problems. Many do, but that’s not a reason to dismiss them and not help them. It’s because they have resorted to these means that we need to do more to help and rehabilitate these people.
I didn’t know if that man in the shopping centre was drunk, diabetic or had mental health problems. Presuming this with no information isn’t helpful. It’s judgemental. It increases the imagined divide between homeless people as “them” from “us”, who are not in the same economic situation. When we do this, we fail to recognise their dignity.
When was a time you were quick to judge someone?