Heading back home after meeting some friends, I went to the underground station and proceeded to the ticket machine to top up my oyster card.
A suspicious looking man walked in with an awkward gait dressed in ragged clothing from head to toe. He started to shout like a fruit market merchant with his loud croaky voice. Being curious, I turned my head and discovered he was offering a free travel card – I immediately tainted his profile as a scam artist.
He walked towards me and could smell his ghastly alcohol breath from distance – it was strong enough to get me drunk. Feeling dubious, yet curious, I asked to him, “Why are you giving this free travel card, use it for your commute to a warmer place.” He then said, “Listen I know the value of this card but it’s useless for me so take it for free.” I was on the brink of making a steadfast decision to reject his humble gratitude. But with a big smile he gave me the travel card and said, “Son, sometimes in life things are more beautiful than they seem.”
I looked at him and for a second the earth stood still. There was something about his look and approach. Despite his negative appearance, his eyes were filled with kindness and hope. The kind of hope that makes you feel good from inside. I took the card and walked cautiously to the barrier, slotted it inside the machine and to my surprise it worked. This single moment altered my view on life and society. I expected him to be more selfish, yet he performed a paradoxical action. In the face of rejection, he continued to offer a helping hand to those who have the luxury of buying their own travel arrangements.
I often reflect back and try to understand the moral of this story – a man with nothing wanted to help. At first it seemed strange because it feels abnormal to get things for free in this society. I then realised that it’s good to be a sceptic, but without crossing the barriers of cynicism. Becoming overcritical can cause you to miss out on the good things in life; trying a new dish on the menu or giving someone a chance. For example, we see many smart graduates struggling to find a job because they don’t go to a target school or lack a certain language requirement. I understand we live in a competitive environment, but everyone should be given a chance.
We tend to unlawfully categorise people by the way they look. We live in modern times, but have outdated thinking. Technology brings us together, yet takes us so far. Social media opens our world, but we lose touch with reality. We point fingers at others, but hate it when it’s pointed at us.
Would I be less judgemental if he was well dressed? Definitely. However, I will now treat everyone with the same respect in spite of appearance and social status. An important lesson can be learnt here fellow readers. Don’t judge someone by the way they look, because who knows how your life can turn out after opening a simple dialogue.