By Bernie Bates
As I sat in my car, I saw this guy stager across the parking lot and fall flat on his face – POW! A passing car stopped and a man jumped out to help this poor fella to his feet. Then a tow truck driver stopped his truck, flicked on his flashing yellow lights and began to radio for assistance. Then I noticed four women looking on with concern. Human kindness was blossoming before my very eyes as the mini-drama unfolded in that hot Penticton parking lot.
The man who fell down was drunk and was a Native man. But, this is not the point of this story. The issue I’d like to convey is this: the two men who assisted were white, young and impartial. They didn’t see a drunken man fall down, nor did they see an Indian man fall down. Apparently they simply witnessed another human being slip, trip and bite the asphalt.
There was no stereotyping, no bigotry just a bunch of people who cared what was happening to this unfortunate brother, from a different mother. It was only a few short decades ago that this scenario might have had a different ending. Twenty or thirty years ago some folks would’ve just curled their lip at this inebriated Native man and scoffed, “you got what you deserved.”
It begs the ‘Q’ what has happened in the last twenty years to change our way of thinking? One word can sum it all up: education. “You must first walk a mile in another’s moccasins before you can pass judgment.” Wiser words, were never spoken. We’re slowly learning these lessons and fortunately we’re passing them along to the next generation. And one of the by-products of human-to-human understanding is kindness.
If we look upon another person and say to ourselves, “Oh my, is that woman ever fat.” We’re being ignorant and snobbish and is proof of how packaging matters to us. That bodacious babe has everything we have – eyes, toes and a nose. She has a brain, emotions and in all likeliness has a mirror at home. But, if she were to fall and scrap her knee, would you feel her pain? Would you stop to help her to her feet and comfort her? Would it matter to you if that person was Asian, Hispanic or a drunken Native man?
It’s not only the next generation that has become educated and informed, even an old dog, like myself has noticed self improvement over the years. I’ve changed my ways, I see things differently and you know what? It feels pretty damn good. There was a time in my life when I had hate in my heart. As I look back on those dark days it makes me cringe inside. I hated my cousin for his gay lifestyle, I hated East Indians and if you were to have asked me why – I couldn’t have given you a sensible answer. And therein is the answer it was senseless, reasonless, mindless hatred. Even writing about it makes me cringe with shame.
Today I have a new outlook on life and I’ve never been more at peace with myself. I care not of a person’s station in life, were they’re from or what they look like. I now look in their eyes for answers. A kind smile, an act of goodwill like opening a door. The gesture costs us nothing but have a tremendous social value. And all this peace of mind and inner wisdom has inspired me into doing a daily ritual. Each day I do these three simple things. First, I don’t harm either man nor beast. Secondly, I try to learn something new and finally I do or say at least one nice thing for someone. I highly recommend this simple ritual. It’s not only beneficial to those you mind, it’s advantages to your mind and most importantly it gives you peace of mind. If everyone on the planet lived by this simple creed things like 911 may never have happened, but we’ll never know. This I do know, if we remain thoughtless of others or aggressive in our behavior we’ll one day fall down and no one will be there to pick us up, dust us off and kiss our boo-boos.