I remember years ago being a little, okay very judgmental, of a fellow sitting on a park bench. It was 1992 perhaps, it was in the summer I think, well maybe the fall. What I am certain about is my judgment of what it was I thought I saw.
I was living and working on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, in downtown Sechelt with a lovely view of Pebble Beach, the ocean and Vancouver Island beyond. There was a park bench underneath a tree on the fringe of the beach. It was a great place to sit.
I noticed on a regular daily basis a rather rotund middle-aged First Nations fellow would take residence on the bench for what seemed like all day. I didn’t pay much attention to him or what he was doing. I did notice my judgment though that he was a lazy fellow not up to much and that he could better employ his time and the public bench. I was aware enough to catch myself, thankfully, and I asked the question in my head – “I wonder what he is doing?” I dropped my nasty judgment, an old habit that was dying slowly, and came at the same scene from the place of curiosity instead.
That shift from judgment to curiosity changed everything.
I began to see that this public bench was really his outdoor coaching office and that he had “appointments” with “clients” each day – a white man’s way of looking at it. Young teens, single moms, other elders all made regular visits to the “bench”. This fellow I had judged so sense-lessly was actually a very busy fellow.
I began to watch even more closely.
I noticed that his “clients” came to him with a heavy heart and a puzzled mind, like they were having trouble in life or something was eating at them. They would sit and chat with this fellow, sometimes for minutes, other times for hours, always for however long it took. When they got up to leave they seemed lighter, more self assured and happier for sure. He had this hand gesture where he patted his heart and ushered them along, making room for his next and yet to be seen “client”.
“Who is that guy?” I asked one of his “clients” as I passed them by on the seawall.
“Oh, that’s Hank our elder.” She said. “We all know where he sits so we drop by for a loving heart and a helping hand when we need it.” She smiled and walked on.
And I thought he wasn’t doing anything.
Goes to show you/me judgment is an uniformed and narrow path. Thank goodness for curiosity, I learned that help only takes place when it is asked for and that Sitting on the Bench is All There is to Do.