How the unlovely, the broken and the disadvantaged are treated is the measure of society.
If you go behind all our masks, behind the tattoos, the makeup, the hair, the gender, the orientation, the religion or non-religion, you will meet a human. Someone who breathes the air, has blood in their veins, eats, rests, and generally lives from one routine to another.
We are all human.
My eyes were opened one day when a feared gang member stopped outside a food shop to buy his lunch. What I saw that day was a person, who probably ordered and paid for his favourite sandwich, and looked forward to eating it.
A man with a hunger, a need, a desire for something, normal, satisfying.
I got to know this man in a small way over a few years, I knew him as a person who looked out for his friends, he was a caring man, he tried to protect youth when needed. He shared with me his concerns about children playing in a derelict building site. He had a desire to improve his circumstances and of those around him.
He was also a gang member, he wore a patch, I am sure he had earned it in a way I did not want to know about. He was an outcast from “normal” society.
What I mainly saw was the man, a human.
A desire to change from someone with a less than “normal” past, whether that be criminal or other anti-social background (mental health especially has a stigma that people need to overcome) requires us to change our attitude, it requires us to get out of our comfort zone to reach out to the one wanting to change.
It means taking a risk.
Unless we are prepared to take a risk to reach out to others who are different from us how can we ever expect to improve our community.
To ostracize the unlovely, the broken and the disadvantaged is an indictment on the society we live in.
We need to be a community where forgiveness is a norm, where there is acceptance of the different, and where those wishing to and needing to change can find a place to do so and people who can help.
To love the unlovely is to love your fellow human. Something we are all called to do.
Paul S Allen
You the customer are under suspicion. Your actions require utmost control and under no circumstances can you enter our business with that item. We consider all people who enter our business as criminals intent on stealing our stuff. We do not care about you or your own care or safety.
This is the message I was given by the owner of a business today after I raised a concern about a policy the store has and the manner in which it was enforced.
What was the offense? My wife had a small hand bag with her.
The policy of the store was that no-one was able to enter the store with a bag (of any sort). We had the option of leaving the bag with a complete stranger at the counter in an insecure area or not go into the store.
Our greeting was not a friendly smile or even a simple “Hello” it was just “Bag please!” no option, no explanation.
After calling the store to question the policy and manner which we were treated, the owner phoned me back to explain that under no circumstances was anyone allowed in the store with a bag of any kind and that Prime Minister John Key and even the Queen would be asked to leave their bags at the counter.
When explaining that my wife has a health condition and the bag contains important contents, it was explained that we could take contents out of the bag and carry them with us. I suggested that it would be difficult to shop or browse while carrying things in our hands he said that was our problem.
I can accept the importance of store security and issues around shop theft, but the tone and treatment of the staff member and the arrogant attitude of the owner has left us never wanting to visit that shop again. We had the intention of making purchases on todays visit but we will not be going back to that establishment.
I will not name the store as I do not wish to advertise or promote its existence in any way. If anyone ever asks me for a recommendation about these types of shops I will not mention them at all and if questioned directly will explain our dissatisfaction.
One question I have about this “leave bag at counter” policy. If something goes missing or is damaged in the bag whose liability is it? For example if I leave my camera bag at the counter and someone drops a heavy item on it will the store pay the cost to repair or replace damaged items? What say someone gets given the wrong bag and it goes missing, who is liable?
The experience today has left us feeling angry and disappointed especially after the owner said it was our loss for not doing business with him. Actually it is his loss, we were going to spend money today at his shop and didn’t.
We will not be going back to that store again.
Beware of leaders who tell you what to think. Think for yourself, if they are threatened by that, good.
One of the problems of society as I see it today is that we spend far too much time trying, and succeeding, to not think. We have been spoon fed doctrine, ideologies and propaganda without taking time out to analyse what we are being fed. It is far to easy to go along with the masses with the assumption that everyone else is doing it/thinking it so it must be right.
To think for yourself carries its risks. Your independent thought might just upset the people around you, it might upset those who manage the status quo and those in authority.
A true leader will always encourage free thought amongst their team.
One of the keys to successfully solving problems, fixing that which is broken or bringing about longstanding change is to simply allow yourself to think freely, independently and then collaboratively with other such free thinkers.
I dare you to have an opinion, don’t just mouth off over some minor irritation, investigate the issues, ask questions – expect and demand answers, be prepared to be wrong and to back down, but you must have your opportunity to think. The problem often is not what you think, it is whether you actually do think.
Never be made to feel inferior because you have your own thoughts on an issue. You do not have to just believe everything that so-called leaders teach you. Learn to question do not be put off or intimidated. People may not like the question, those in authority may especially be threatened because you question them, or seek clarification on points that you do not understand.
A belief system should be able to withstand rigorous questioning. Any belief system that does not allow deep questioning of its core beliefs and values should be treated with utmost caution.
The older I get the less afraid I become, and I find myself questioning the very core of my faith systems. What I find out is that there is so much I don’t understand and that I don’t have all the answers (and neither does anyone else), I do not have all the wisdom and I especially do not have any right to judge others.
The older I get the more issues become grey, and so does my hair.
The black and white taught thinking patterns I had when I was young have changed because I realise so much is beyond my limited understanding of the universe. As such I will not blindly follow any doctrine, belief, ideology or mass hysteria. I will question, I will not be satisfied with the status quo, I will think for myself and if others do not like that, tough.
I will not tell you how or what to think but I will encourage you to think. We may not agree on many or any issues and that is good as long as we respect each other for having the ability to think freely. May be one day we can dialogue and collaborate on an issue and bring about great and positive change. In the meantime think for yourself.
OK, I know I do not have a permanent disability, but over the last few weeks I have has the misfortune to experience life on crutches. Over the time I have had to use public transport, buses, taxis, shuttles, air travel and the generous assistance of coworkers and friends.
I have eaten at restaurants and cafes and have had an overnight stay in a hotel.
I have learnt that there are some great and helpful people out there, to which I say thank you.
My short-term inconvenience is minor and I was reminded of this while waiting for a plane at Wellington airport when I saw a child on crutches who only had one leg. She will grow up having to live with that for life.
So what have I noticed?
- People are generally great about it and look out for you.
- Some buses can kneel to assist you on and off.
- People offer to help
The not so good.
- I have had to get over my pride and accept help.
- At home we only have a shower over the bath and balancing on one leg is tricky as is getting in and out.
- Buses sometimes stop in strange places to far away from the kerb and the jump is a long way.
- Vans are very hard to get in too
- Wet grass is not a good surface to hobble over on crutches. One of my crutches sunk in six inches.
- Staying in a hotel room alone poses a problem when moving hot drinks around. Wet bathroom floors in hotels are slippery.
- The upper body workout is hard work and tiring.
What have I learnt?
- Do not hurry down stairs! (marble stairs are very unforgiving)
- If you are on crutches for a long time wear thick gloves to pad your hands.
- Metal drink bottles and thermal coffee mugs with a lid are an essential.
- Make sure you have a small stool in the house that will fit into the bath.
- There is no shame to ask for help.
- I am no Superman
My ankle will heal (eventually) and this is a temporary inconvenience. I have a lot to be thankful for especially my wife, I have a great work place with a good team of people.