“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”§

Yesterday while shopping, I saw an old lady fumbling with the canned tomatoes. I wasn’t sure what she was doing — I did wonder if she suffered from a vision impairment. She had worn out slippers and clothes on. I had my headphones on although I had yet to hit play on the iPod. As I was exiting the aisle, she started asking for help. I pretended that I didn’t see her and avoided eye contact — I wasn’t the only one.

After I turned towards the meat section, guilt came over me. How could I stereotype this lady? If she is homeless, does that make her less of a person? Where was my compassion and humility to another person? Many people are suffering, especially in the current economic environment with many people unemployed, and either homeless or on the verge of homelessness.

As a person of colour who grew up in Australia in the early 80s, I have experienced my fair share of racism and stereotyping due to being different. It hurts, many of the scars from growing up non-white in a predominantly white country still effect me to this day.

My neurotic ego got the better of me. Rather than just helping someone who was seeking assistance, I turned a blind eye and pretended she didn’t exist. Helping her was the right thing to do, but I automatically stereotyped her and refused to be a compassionate and good human.

To the lady who I ignore and stereotyped, I’m sorry for not being a good person. I hope you can forgive me. I need to work on being a better person.

§ On researching the source of this proverb, I got conflicting stories of who said it. Some sources site that it’s an African proverb, that Eldridge Cleaver said it in 1968, or that Charles Rosner introduced the slogan in 1967.

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