There are many factors that can influence a person’s interpretation of a situation. Cultural background, religion, prior experiences, or something as simple as a person’s mood can affect the outlook they have toward situations. Two individuals can witness the same event and have opposite reactions or interpretations of the incident. One instance of this can be illustrated by the observations of interaction between a group of friends and a man who was seemingly down on his luck.
Growing up in southern California, there were frequently situations where there was interaction with transients or the homeless. One such occurrence has always remained etched in my memory. While heading to lunch with a group of friends we walked past a man who appeared to be homeless. He was walking around with a handful of crinkled newspaper in one hand a half empty bottle of Windex in the other. As people drove past him in the parking lot he would offer to wash their windows for spare change. Often people would honk at him and hurry by, hardly acknowledging the man or his attempts to earn a little spare change. Reactions within my group of friends varied. I commented on the fact that the man was willing to do what little he could to scrape together change. Another member of the group voiced that if he was really willing to work that he should be applying for real jobs somewhere and be contributing to society. Suddenly opinions were being aired and tossed about. Remarks were made that we didn’t know his situation and quickly rebutted with statements claiming that those who were homeless were lazy and a drain on the community.
As we neared the man he asked where we were parked and if he could clean our windows while we were shopping or eating. I asked the man if he was hungry. He responded that he was trying to get money for lunch. I offered the man to accompany me to the small hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that we were heading to for lunch. He initially declined and said he...
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