A dad assumed that the man in a wheelchair, who was speaking to his 11-year-old son at the gas station, was just trying to get money from him. But, when the young boy returned to their car, he revealed what actually happened — and that’s when the dad’s heart froze.
Blanton O’Neal was out with his 11-year-old son, Sean, when he came across a situation that could happen to anyone. Since it’s easy to make the same mistake he did, Blanton quickly took to Facebook to reveal exactly what happened when he and his son stopped at a gas station and his boy crossed paths with a stranger. He hopes that sharing the unflattering incident will help others make a difference and prevent them from the ugly truth he was forced to face.
“I debated making a post of this as it paints a not so flattering picture of me as a person. But I think in the end it is a picture of many of us if we are truly honest with ourselves,” Blanton began. “Yesterday, as Sean and I traveled to NC for his soccer tourney, we stopped at an exit near the N.C./S.C. border and pulled off at a small gas station for a drink. While I paid, I gave Sean the keys so he could head back out to the car.”
It took Blanton a little while to check out, but as he exited the store, he noticed Sean’s door was open. His son was walking away from the car towards an older African-American man in a wheelchair with amputated legs, who appeared homeless, according to Blanton.
“My first reaction, sadly, was ‘oh crap! He is hitting Sean up for money and has called him over,’” Blanton admitted. But, as he walked closer, it became clear that Sean had engaged in a short conversation with the man. The boy turned around and headed back to the car, so Blanton did the same.
When the duo returned to the car, Blanton asked his son what that was all about. “Nothing, Dad. I just was asking if he needed help,” Sean responded. “He said ‘no thanks,’ that he was fine but thanked me for asking.” That’s when the reality of the situation hit Blanton like a ton of bricks.
“See, at first glance, I didn’t even notice that the gentleman was attempting to cross a gravel parking lot, full of potholes, in a wheelchair using only his hands. I didn’t notice that my 11yo child was man enough to see this in the mirror of my car, drop his electronics he was playing, get out and offer to help the guy,” Blanton wrote.
As they began to leave, Sean asked his dad if they could give the man some money, so Blanton pulled up beside the disabled gentleman and asked if he could use a few bucks. However, he said, “No thank you, I’m fine,” adding, “Your son was a real gentleman and gave me all I needed today. God Bless.”
After rolling up the window and starting to drive off, out of the corner of his eye, Blanton saw Sean wave at the guy and he waved back with a huge smile on his face, leaving Blanton asking himself one question: Would I have gotten out of the car and done the same?
“I don’t post this looking for any praise for Sean,” the dad continued with blatant honesty. “I post this to expose a real nastiness we have in our world. We spew such bile and hatred on every news channel, every Facebook post, every tweet,” he added. “We all do it. We have forgotten to look at the world through the eyes of a child,” he admitted.
“Many people have told us over the years how big-hearted Sean is. While he can be bigger than life in many social settings, choosing to be the jokester, his small acts of kindness fly under the radar, as they should,” Blanton wrote. “Sean wasn’t looking for praise for what he did. He didn’t even know I would see it. He just saw a man that he thought needed help.”
Blanton and Sean’s story reveals why it’s so important not to judge a book by its cover. A human isn’t solely defined by their appearance, clothes, or their physical condition. Luckily, the innocence of children often lets them see beyond the surface, where adults tend to judge people all too quickly. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all guilty of judging others in some capacity as we navigate the world based on our previous experiences and perceptions.
Sometimes, we might be right, but sometimes we’re wrong. Like Blanton, however, we can admit and recognize our own prejudice and make an effort to prevent it from limiting our ability to show a kinder, more compassionate side of ourselves. But, first, we have to face the bleak and dark truth. Then, instead of judging, we can try to see the world through a child’s loving and unprejudiced eyes.