Two Stories of Perception


Yesterday a friend dropped me off at my house.  Still sitting in her car, we watched a woman on my sidewalk.  She carried a small package and a troubled expression.  She walked up the sidewalk toward the house, then back.  I confess, I asked my friend, “Can I just sit here a minute until she leaves?”  Imagining she was collecting for something, or proselytizing, or selling.  But then I had second thoughts and got out of the car, told her I lived there and asked if I could help her.

It turned out that she was trying to deliver the package in her hand.  But our cat, Maddie, was lounging on the porch by the front door, and the woman was afraid to go onto the porch!  Of course I took the package, and I went up and patted my old, fat, black cat scratching her back by rubbing on the concrete, as cats do.  I laughed in my mind at the timid woman.  But then I took another look at my kitty.  She is large, solid black, with golden eyes, and it you don’t look on her with love you might say she looks evil.  And she doesn’t get out of the way for anybody.  I had a little sympathy for the plight of the delivery-woman.

This small story took my thoughts to those times that you see a group of slightly rowdy young people gathered together.  Especially young men.  Especially young men who don’t look like you.  Do you cross the street, do you worry, do you get hyper-alert?  Do you avoid that neighborhood in future?  But what if you know one of them; maybe you taught him when he was little, or you work with his mom, or he volunteers to tutor at your school, or he’s a friend of your son?  What then?  Of course the whole group and how they talk and what they are doing appears different to you.

Perception.  Use it wisely.  Don’t let it steer you unnecessarily toward fear.

7 thoughts on “Two Stories of Perception

  1. What a good gritty slice you have here. I applaud your call to humanity. I paused to think that I’m one to avoid the oddities due to discomfort when I actually should step in and assist at those times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think about this too sometimes. (The young men, not the cat. I’m only nervous of cats that have a known history of randomly assaulting me, otherwise I always assume the best!) There were teachers in my previous district who complained about the Latino boys walking down the hall “in a gang.” I was the ELD teacher; these were my kids. I asked them, ‘How many of you have to be in a group before you know you can walk down the hall without anyone calling you names?”

    “Four or five,” they answered immediately.

    Yep. I knew the kids, and I knew what was driving their behavior. Teachers (white teachers) who didn’t know the kids had a completely different perception.

    Not that my perception is always right either. I’m less comfortable around older teens and black teens, because those are not populations I’ve worked with. Thank you for addressing the issue and pushing us to think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this ‘perceptive’ response! I’m glad you spoke up about it with your colleagues. And you are so honest about other groups that you are less familiar with. I think this is a human tendency that we have to be mindful about. I hope you might enlarge your remarks here into a slice 🙂


  3. This is a tough one. My mom once visited me in the “big city” and told me she worried about me because she didn’t like the look of where I grocery shopped. It had never even crossed my mind because I was familiar with my neighborhood and didn’t think it looked at all scary. She comes from a small town and watches the news. Sometimes I think the media makes us afraid of unfamiliarity. It turned out well that you helped the woman and I’m glad you have a watch-cat to help you out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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