Although I think I’ve fully embraced the truth of “never judge a book by its cover”, I think I uncovered another stereotype within myself that I didn’t know existed. The other day I dashed out of my office, headed for the bank and had planned to make a quick stop to get lunch and head back to the office. Well,as I walked back to pick up lunch, I gained eye contact with a woman, that I sort of thought may be homeless, but maybe not. I felt that upon first glance, she needed something, but she let me pass without asking. But then as I waited for the pedestrian light to change, she asked if I would help her get food. Usually, I’m not so open with this kind of thing; it depends. But, today, with her, I was free spirited and open to her stopping me and asking me. I asked what she liked to eat and to my surprise she named a very popular vegan restaurant here in Washington, DC. She told how much her meal would cost, approx.$11. The fact that her choice meal was vegan peaked my interest in her; who she must be and where she’s been. I wondered about her life experiences. Although, I felt like I wanted to talk more; I think both of us did; we didn’t. I shared a little of what I knew about the restaurant, gave her $20 and we parted. But, as you can see, the encounter sparked something.
It just took me aback that this homeless woman was vegan or at least that she preferred vegan. Again, I am reminded not to stereotype and that, “you can’t judge a book by its cover“. This is so important for a counselor to remember and practice being “non-judgemental”. I know this and I practice this, but “a vegan, homeless woman” caught me off guard. My reaction, uncovered an unconscious stereotype or assumption that I didn’t know was there until I was faced with it. I’m thankful that I am teachable; able to recognize the assumption that I’d made about homeless persons and put it in perspective.
I do wish that I had talked to her little more. Like all of us, she has a story and my spirit wanted to hear it, but my mind rejected the thought of engaging her further. This is another lesson learned while walking by faith; that in order to walk by faith, I must walk in the spirit, listening and being obedient to it.