Once i saw an immensely fat woman – 350lbs at least – struggling to step onto a nashville city bus. Wheezing with effort, perspiring through her floral print dress, she couldnt hoist her foot onto the platform. Her knee, encased in layers of flesh, wouldnt bend. The driver, with a sigh, bolted from his seat to try to shoehorn her through the door. The passengers gaped and craned, their expressions ranging from embarassment to scorn to a sort of horrified fascination. As schedules unraveled and tempers frayed, the irritation grew more audible. The thought flashed through my mind as it did through nearly everyone’s “how could anyone allow herself to get so obese?” Then I saw the expression on the woman’s face: mortification. And my heart broke – for all her hard days and for all my hard thoughts.
Why was my first response not compassion but a series of assessments that went off like a string of mental firecrackers before I even knew I’d lit the match? My judgement was so fused with my perception as to be inseparable: she became what I beheld. I was painfully aware of my mind – the mind itself – as a difference engine, cranking out the petty distinctions that keep people apart. And I wished I could dismantle the whole stupid contraption once and for all.
That moment has stayed with me almost a decade now – and I hope that it’s lesson always will.