Being approached on street corners tends to bring out the worst in people.
I tried to keep this in mind at the beginning of the school year when I found myself trying — and mostly failing — to collect signatures for a bill protecting transgendered people in the workplace with my First-Year Student Outreach Project group. For the most part the day consisted of stopping someone with some sort of catch phrase, “HEY! Do you care about human rights?” or, “People are still being discriminated against at work!”
When someone would pause for a moment, we would, in the most polite way possible, shove a list of signatures in their face while simultaneously explaining what being transgendered meant and why they deserved the same protections as everyone else.
Why am I relating this story now … three months after it took place? Because, ‘tis the season to bother people wherever they go about: (a) starving children, (b) underrepresented and poverty-stricken minorities, and (c) the true meaning of Christmas.
It gets obnoxious, doesn’t it? We generally don’t want to be asked to go out of our way to do nice things — we want to think of those nice things ourselves and carry them out independently. I don’t think it’s that we’re all (entirely) selfish or malevolent. We just prefer doing good deeds on our own time, and not while we’re in the checkout line at the grocery store or anxiously waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. And even more anxiously, of course, because there is a group of people inching closer and closer with a pen and paper or a donation box in hand.
Which brings me back to my story. I knew, waving my petition around, that very few people wanted anything to do with the cause I was promoting. This wasn’t because they were bad people or because they thought the cause was unworthy (okay, except for a few people here and there), but because they simply did not want a disruption in their day.
I understand why this happens, to some extent. It is impossible for most of us to donate to and check the legitimacy of every cause we hear about — and even if we could, why should we? All I’m suggesting is that we not be entirely closed off to every unexpected encounter, in the theme of last week’s suggestion about befriending other airplane passengers.
I truly realized how nice that would be during my time at FYSOP and I try to remind myself of it when I catch myself trying to inch past the Oxfam volunteers that congregate on Commonwealth Avenue. And now, with the holidays fully upon us, I think it’s even more important to learn about the causes we’re too busy avoiding.
Who knows? You might just find yourself learning about an issue you actually care about — or, in my case, supporting transgender rights.
Shout out to the seven people who did sign my petition.
Jessica Depies is a freshman in the College of Communication studying journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com.