The Sides of the Cardboard Sign

In the effort to continue that Socio-Emotional Revolution, a friend and I, stood in someone’s shows for a while. How is it to be treated as the “other”? The only way to find out is to place your self in their everyday situations.

It is a unique experience when you pulled your car up to a red light and are greeted by a cry for help written on cardboard. It is not “normal” to society. Normal society is in the car. When you look around at the people populated the cars at that red light, you can see something in all of their expressions regarding that cardboard sign. Everyone looks with concern enough to read what the sign says, but then they put up walls. They act in self-preservation. If they don’t continue to look, roll up their window, and only look straight ahead (begging for the light to turn green and release the from this uncomfortable interaction).  No matter these people’s status within this “normal” society, they recognize they are different and above that cardboard sign. 

Even if their car is barely running, emitting a loud continuous squeak from a belt on its last leg. Even if they are wearing a uniform for a job that does not pay them enough to really get by. Even if they can feel their stomach start its violent rumbles, desperately trying to encourage that a meal be had. No matter how close they are to being on that sidewalk, holding that cardboard sign, people will keep themselves separate from that person.

Those that are seemingly furthest away from that cardboard sign are more likely to become aggressive and offended by the signs presence. They have had their life experience diluted to the point were any real experience or break in habit becomes a threat. Being confronted with the fact that not everyone is lucky enough to have life operate so easily makes them subconsciously realize they could fall. And it is a far fall back down to working hard to barely getting by.

I have stood in that spot, holding that sign. It is a hard place to be. There are some that live on all the levels of social standings.  They will smile, they might even give a little. Through my experiment, I saw more faces mocking, looking in disdain, and trying very hard to ignore. I even began to feel that I should feel ashamed of myself. I should step back from my confrontation position forcing them to look at another and try to understand their position.

I realized, it is not the line of cars paused at the light that stand tall in judgment. It is that lone soul holding the cardboard sign that is strong. They understand that human interaction is important. They stand their as a thorn in society’s comfort. In the cars, people don’t interact with each other. We only make small passing judgments on each other. “Look at that car, they must have money.” “Look at that clunker, they must need another job.” When one of us stands outside the cars and looks us n the eye, our fantasy world walls are broken. Struggle, life experience, need, and connection flood into our cars.

We are forced to feel something.

What is not understood on either side, is you are holding that sign. We are all in the same world. Outside of the car or otherwise, we are all here existing. If you climb too high to get away from the “bottom”, the fall back down will be painful and harder to handle. If you are desperately clawing to try and get away from the lower status than yours, your similarities with shine with painful power. Those holding the sign with have to realize that if they make it into a car and out of that life, they will still find trouble.