He was walking down the street and asked to buy a cigarette. My flatmate gave him one. He paid her for it.
He thanked us for making eye contact with him. He said that most people just called him a homeless bum and walked away. I’ve been hearing stories like that a lot lately. People are so grateful just to be treated like people.
I’ve heard it as parenting advice “don’t say anything to a child you wouldn’t say to an adult person”.
It’s a lesson stated very well in Neil Gaiman’s novel Stardust: There is a difference between being a shop-boy and being a boy who happens to be working in a shop.
As humans, we label things to process information. It’s not an instinct we can turn off. Stereotypes can’t be eradicated because our brains like grouping shit together.
But it’s still amazing the difference makes when you just treat a person like a *person*. Not a “Labelled-person” or “A-Person-Who”. Just a person.
Just like everybody else. Just like you.