I was walking to work today a bit after 8 on a clear bright morning, and up ahead near Government House noticed a group of Aboriginal people sitting on the path. I was very interested in analysing my own instinctive reactions and then my subsequent responses to those reactions.
My initial thought was to deviate from the path and pass them at some distance. Then I asked why I reacted that way. I wasn’t exactly sure.
- Maybe they’ll ask me for some money, and I’ll feel bad when I say no, so I’ll avoid the situation entirely. I don’t want to give them anything because I’m sure they’ll just blow it on booze.
- Maybe they’ll get violent towards me; but that’s never happened to me before when I’ve walked past similar groups, they’ve tended to just sit and mind their own business. The only times I’ve been asked for money is when people have been walking around on their own.
So I kept walking towards them, still with some reticence. Then I had another thought, one which has occurred to me more than once in the past but one I’d rarely done something about.
I’ll say hello.
So I bravely kept walking towards this group of fairly surly-looking people talking roughly to each other, and as I passed them on my left said “Morning”. Their faces brightened, they simultaneously raised their hands and waved and greeted me in return. As I walked on one of them called out asking for the time, which I provided, and I went on my way. Without molestation, foul language or being chased for a ‘cupla bucks for a sandwich’. Instead I felt a warm feeling inside that I’d made a small connection with a group of people who have much less than I do and who I’d rarely crossed paths with.
I wonder how many other people must walk past Aboriginals, homeless people, a group of skateboarding kids and similar groups and just ignore them because they have similar fears to mine? To them we probably look like a bunch of too-good snobs who can’t deign to look upon them, and maybe there’s an element of that for some. But I’m sure for others they share similar fears and just want to avoid the situation. Maybe some of these people aren’t chasing money or booze – maybe they’d just like someone show them enough respect to give them a few seconds of their day to acknowledge they exist and to feel like a human being again.