Interaction removes fear | Macro

Interaction removes fear


By James Bartlett, Team Leader, fm24

With Homelessness Sunday having just taken place, I was reminded of an act of kindness that I recently witnessed that left me awestruck.  On a trip to Paris, during a mid-morning walk, I saw a mother and her young daughter approach an elderly homeless man.  He was sitting on the floor, huddled in a sleeping bag trying to keep warm in late December chill.

The lady walked over to the man and began speaking to him, whilst her daughter stood back cautiously, her gaze fixed on the scene but looking frightened.  Soon after, the mother motioned for the girl to join them.  Hesitantly she approached, but stood behind her mother, peering around her leg and clutching her coat for security. 

The mother took out some loose change and passed the coins to the girl, and spoke, what I imagine to be, a few words of encouragement.  The little girl stepped forward and handed the man the coins.  He said “merci”, and gave her a warm smile, which was just enough to take away her fear and give her the confidence to join the conversation.  Shortly after the three parted ways, leaving the man touched by the interaction he had just been afforded.

I stood in awe of what I witnessed.  In this short interaction, the mother had taught her daughter an important lesson, to look out for people less fortunate than her.  A lesson that the girl will probably remember for the rest of her life.  When she walks through the city and sees someone in a similar situation, she will remember to stop, to help where she can, and make a connection rather than ignoring someone.  This lesson will not only apply to the homeless, but hopefully to all vulnerable people.  She will know to stop and think before passing judgement and where she can, will give what she can (even if that is just her time) to try and improve the life of somebody who perhaps hasn’t had the love, support and opportunities that she has. 

Secondly and perhaps most importantly, the mother has taught her daughter that homeless people, no matter what state they may appear, are just like her and not people to automatically fear.  As children we learn our sense of danger primarily from our parents or guardians.  Anyone who had good parents will remember the classic lines “don’t talk to/get into cars with/take sweets from… strangers”.  Stranger is the common denominator here, and the difference between a stranger and someone who isn’t is simple ‘interaction’. 

Usually, as soon as we make interaction with someone who appears ‘different’ to us, the fear goes, our defences go down and we judge the situation based on that interaction as opposed to our own beliefs and prejudices.  In this instance, using herself as the safety blanket, guardian and teacher all in one, the mother has introduced her young child to the notion of not judging a book by its cover. 

No doubt the mother recognised the fact that before encouraging her to meet the gentleman, speaking to him first, interacting with him to make that connection before introducing her daughter, therefore teaching her that interaction removes fear. 

Follow Macro on Twitter