Not so grand a gesture

A few of the blogs I have been reading lately are writing about communication and I remembered this incident when I wanted to communicate acceptence and respect, and maybe I did, but it may not have been the wisest of gestures, when I think of the situation that the man was living in.

In 1968 I was twenty-one, and had recently emigrated to Canada. After a year in Toronto my friend and I decided to move to British Columbia, and we thought that taking a southerly route through the United States was a good idea. We decided to take a three month break in order to see the country, and accordingly we loaded up our old Pontiac Impala with all our meagre belongings, plus camping gear and left Toronto, heading across Niagara Falls into the States.

One event of that move, came to mind the other day when thinking of trips I had taken. We were walking on a street in a town in Georgia, I forget which, and an elderly man was walking towards me. We made eye contact. Here was my chance, to make a grand gesture. I stepped out into the gutter, and stood aside, in order to let him walk by.

Did I in fact show that man respect, or was it idealistic conceit and ignorance? A young, white girl moving out of the way for an old, black man, in a time of great friction in the southern states regarding black and white people.

On reflection, perhaps I did not help that man but made his life more difficult. Not only could I have stirred up trouble for him with others, who witnessed the act and would blame him somehow, but what did that action do to his heart. Did I stir up old wounds, or did I encourage him? This side of heaven, I will never know.

Have you even done something meaning well, but on later reflection may not have been wise?