When I was younger I believed, rightly so, that the circumstances of my life were little or no different than the circumstances of the lives of the people around me. And I say “rightly so” because when you’re a kid growing up, that’s exactly how it should be. You can’t drive, you can’t go out on your own, and the choices you make, however limited in scope, are for the most part arbitrary in nature, so the best thing going, and one of the only things at that, is your ability to be innocent.
I had the good fortune when I grew up of being separate from some of those “premature agers,” things like drugs, abuse (physical and sexual), poverty, crime–those sorts of things, things that often times cause kids to grow up much quicker than they are designed to.
My dad left when I was a baby (you can read a little about that here) which can, and has, affected many a boy children, but, as was the case with me, there was enough good in my life counteracting the bad that I never really cared or missed him. It wasn’t something that, in the long or short term, affected me in any sort of meaningful way, which–I don’t know–might be a rare thing to say; some kids aren’t that lucky.
I never knew my friends’ home lives, save for a few that I knew really well. It wasn’t until I grew up, got older, and saw our paths diverge that I began to see how different we were. Some had it easy, some had great lives at home, with money and friends and family and food, but some, I came to see, weren’t quite as fortunate as those.
So when I came to work at eCity Java, I believed that I had a decent grasp on who people were, and the circumstances of their lives through the limited observations I’d had the liberty of undertaking. But–as is the case with many downtowns–the unfortunate, the downtrodden, the low on luck as it were, are often times out in droves, and the people I came to meet from working in my own downtown taught me a different side to what I thought I knew.
People would come in who were hoarse, on one crutch, who were wearing the same sweat-stained shirt they were wearing three weeks before, asking for water, or to sit or something, before moving on out to somewhere else. And while you’re aware of these people, from afar, interacting with them everyday gives you a wider lens toward what is all around you.
That being said, over the past couple of weeks we’ve had an issue in the coffee shop. It’s explicitly stated to us when we first start that there are people who will come in and try to steal your tips, that they’ll come in, ask for something small, and pocket as much cash as they can grab in a moment, leaving with a smile as if nothing had happened. Because of that, we’ve become prone to profiling.
“Will this person try to steal something?”
“Are they just saying this to get me to turn around?”
And often times the answer to that is no. I’ve felt, on more than one occasion, remorseful for stereotyping a person who then in turn proves to be the brightest part of my day.
Despite the stereotyping, the few of us who have been there the longest, often times, will do what we can to help those people out. Allowing them to sit for a bit with a free mug of coffee in the winter, allowing them to get out of the heat when it’s blazing–and I always imagined, at least for those regulars, that there was a respect sort of built up because of those things.
Recently I’ve learned that there isn’t.
I really don’t know what this post is for, or who it’s to, or why I’m writing it. Maybe it’s for myself, just kind of saying things (that’s probably true), but all of this has kind of frustrated me. Catching people that you’ve seen regularly try to steal from you is kind of heartbreaking to me and knowing that people are so desperate that that theft would even be a thing is even more so. And while I’m angry that it’s been happening, not just to me, but to others, it also makes me kind of numb: numb to their problems, numb to who they are, numb to why they came in in the first place.
And I hate the numbness.
I want to help those who are less fortunate than I am. I want to do what I can to set them up well, but being stolen from, being played doesn’t make that easy–it just makes generalizing easier. It makes the innocent, though homeless, villains in my mind, their wants nefarious schemes to take from me, simply because of what they may do to me, even if the majority might not.
And because of that, I miss the innocence. I miss everyone just being the same. I miss not knowing or caring what went on in people’s lives because they were people and that was good enough for me. I miss trusting blindly, loving and befriending everyone, but, apparently, adult life is different–real life is different–and the view just has to be broadened.
The Bible says in Mark 12:30-31:
“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
There’s a happy medium somewhere between blind love and distaste that exists as a sort of cautionary fondness, toward motives, toward lives, toward people in general that helps us to achieve that kind of love.
We’re called to love as best we can, so we make it work somehow, even if it means more diligence on our part in regards to some of the darker stuff, and while I miss that innocence, that blindness, the ignorance, it’s better this way, more real, more true, and I think that makes the love, in whatever it form it shows up, a little more true too.