Sunday, February 13, 2011
Maybe it's not wrong to stare...
I was in a Starbucks today getting a coffee for Dianna and a cup of water for myself. While in line, I noticed a boy of about five staring intently at something around the corner. I took a few steps forward to see what he was looking at.
Relaxing in a corner reading a book was a large man in a wheelchair. It was an usual scene for a few reasons. For one, the wheelchair was larger and wider than most wheelchairs I've seen (the man was obese). It also was raised about 3 feet off the ground. The other interesting thing about him was that his feet were extremely swollen, a condition that I learned is called Edema and apparently sometimes happens to people in wheelchairs. His feet were approximately three times the size of normal feet, and were encased in thick black boots that I assume served some medical function.
My first thought looking at the young boy was, "Hey kid, it's rude to stare."
But the more I thought about it, how could he NOT stare? We are drawn to things that are different from what we see normally. This is also biological, and probably stems from our hunting days when determining small changes in our environment was essential to survival. So when we see something different from what we are used to, we notice. And for a five year old boy, seeing a large man in a jacked-up wheelchair with large feet is pretty darn unusual, and therefore interesting.
Now, yes, the people we stare at may be sensitive to our stares, and therefore we try not to out of kindness. But if our eyes turn towards a strange-looking person before we are even aware of it, we can avert our eyes politely, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up for the slip. It's natural, even if rude.