What is the most shocking thing that has ever happened to you?
The sky is the limit for this question!
I was in Haiti at the time. I was in the Army at the time. We were protecting relief workers following the Port au Prince Earthquake. There was an interpreter (as they speak Creole). I was holding back a large crowd, and they were a little rowdy (it was hot, lines were long, etc).
I needed to speak to someone, so I needed an interpreter. I called out "Terp!"; which was a term I had learned to use in Iraq. I think I might have snapped it towards Charles, but he definitively knew I meant him. He came over, and helped me translate.
Later on he asked me not to call him 'terp'. His name was Charles (and I knew that). It was just one of those moments, that really meant something to me. I had defined him by his job, which would have been as bad as to define him by his race. I had essentially reduced him from being a person to a thing, to the interpreter for my squad.
Instantly, Charles came to life. He wasn't just the interpreter, he was Charles, and a person. Since then, I've tried my hardest to never define anyone by any one aspect of their character (less I have no choice), and to know them by their names and who they are, rather than just my simple perception of the world.
every once in a while I stop in at a tiny store in a rural area near my home town, and I always wondered why the people who worked there would stare at me. This one particular day the woman behind the counter looked at me and said "you know, I don't tell anyone that you shop here." I had no idea what she was talking about. I said "excuse me?" and she said, "well, with you being on tv and all that, I figured you want your privacy." I know I blushed, my cheeks started burning. "I'm not who you think I am...whoever that is." so she told me who she thought I was and then she nodded and smiled like she was saying "it's okay, your secret is safe with me." It floored me. That had never happened to me and the funny part is that after that episode it suddenly happened all the time.....and it still does. Personally I don't see the resemblance but it seems everyone else does.
The most shocking thing to me, personally, was experiencing what it felt like to be discriminated against in a very obvious manner. I was a 35 year old white female at the time. I was attending a work conference in Washington D.C. when the 9/11 terror attacks occurred. After the conference there were no flights out and no rental cars to be found, so I had to purchase a bus ticket to get home. I went to a bus station and stood in line to get a ticket. Like everyone else, I was unsettled by the recent events. I guess the bus station was located in a minority neighborhood, as most of the other ticket buyers were black and Hispanic - and I wasn't concerned about that - so I guess that's why I felt so surprised by the attitude of the black man behind the counter selling bus tickets. I was repeatedly asked to go to the back of the line, behind the non-caucasians, when I had arrived before them and had been waiting for some time. Finally, I began to openly question his attitude, and an older Hispanic woman laid her hand on my arm and gently patted it and told me to just be patient and I'd get my ticket. Obviously she'd witnessed this same type of behavior before, and in her way she was trying to comfort me and give me some advice. I waited until every other person in that station was served and was then allowed to pay for and receive a bus ticket. I am not a racist, nor have I ever exhibited that type of behavior or ideology, so it was very hurtful and shocking to me to be treated that way - especially during a time when we should have all been pulling together and taking care of each other! It did give me pause for thought, however, even if it was meant to be a mean-spirited action. It reminded me to be more considerate of others and to be thankful for social reforms that seek to equalize the status of minorities and women. We are all human beings, bleeding the same red blood, needing the same food and water, made alive by the same Creator, and we should all work as hard as we can to make discrimination a thing of the past.
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