An old woman is waiting to cross a busy street. Six people walk past and do not help her.
1. A woman who has just learned she is pregnant after several years of trying. She is deep in thoughts about how she will tell her husband the news.
2-4. Three men who are on their phones. All three spend forty hours a week on those phones, or on their computers, and all too often walk oblivious through the world. They are hyper-focused on work so they don't need to go into overtime; so they can be with their families are much as possible - play games with their children, cuddle with their wives. They are working not for nice cars or fancy holidays, but to buy things like medicine, school books, braces. If they had seen the old woman, they would have helped her, smiling and gently joking as they helped her across the road, because that's the kind of men they are.
5. A young woman who is desperately shy. She sees the old woman and wants to help her, but the fear of it is too much. Not only the fear of taking a risk - will the old woman sneer or laugh at her? - but the fear of how she'll lie awake that night shivering, remembering every word she said, every stare of every passerby, even if it was the right thing to do. (Instead, she goes home and lies awake berating herself for not helping the old woman.)
6. A young man who has a migraine and urgently wants to get home to a dark room. He barely even sees the old woman through his migraine aura.
A woman is sitting on a park bench, staring at her phone, while her child plays on the jungle gyms.
1. She is texting family for updates on her grandmother, who has just had a stroke.
2. She is gently trying to teach her shy child a little bit of independence.
3. She has spent all morning playing with her child, reading him stories, and has now brought him to the park to play with neighbourhood friends so she can have a breather.
4. She is reading research for an essay she has to write tonight, what with being a university student bringing up her child alone and hoping to make a better life for both of them.
5. She is reading facebook and having a little me time in the sun while her child plays happily.
6. She is well aware her child has fallen over and bumped his knee, but she can see it's not serious and she hopes that, by giving him space, he'll pick himself up and develop a bit of resilience.
7. She sees her child is in dispute with another child. She believes they will work it out for themselves, and thus further develop their socialisation skills, rather than having an adult fix it for them.
8. She is being lazy for a little while, what with being a real human being and all.
A woman has her child on a leading string.
1. The child is autistic/mischevious/lively and all it would take is a moment's distraction and he'd run off into possible danger.
2. She has lost him before and the terror was so great, she needs this support until he has learned better obedience.
3. She had a difficult life before becoming a mother and is overly anxious about everything.
4. She knows someone whose child ran into traffic.
5. She used to be a police officer and now sees potential danger everywhere.
6. It's what she thinks is best for her child at this particular time.
The cure for sanctimonious judgment is a dash of imagination mixed with a dash of empathy. I wish we would all be more gentle with each other.