I know this might make me sound like a stalker but people-watching has to rank as one of my favourite things to do when I'm out and about.
There's something soothing about watching people go about their daily activities and, this is going to make me sound like a nutter, I also wonder what stories these people might have to tell.
I got my lion's share of people-watching when I was in Europe in July this year. When my friends and I were in France, I saw there were a lot of migrant workers peddling souvenirs, bottled waters and selfie sticks to tourists.
These street vendors could be found hawking their wares by the entrances of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles. I felt especially sorry for the drink sellers who had to carry their ice-filled bucket with bottled waters from place to place. I had only my backpack to carry but I was already feeling faint from both the heat and from the exhaustion caused by having to walk from sun-up to sundown (it's a hard life, travelling).
Seeing these street vendors had me wanting to go up to them to ask a million questions. Where are you from? How did you get here? Did you have to pay someone a large fee to get you on a boat to France?
However, I also found it was so easy for me to slip from "people-watching mode" to "judging mode."
I was soon discounting the street vendors: their cheap clothes, their less-than-stylish haircuts, the slightly gamey air that hung around them.
Callous thoughts such as, "Well, they knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed up for this business, so why should I feel sorry for them," would also find their way to my head.
And those thoughts came easily and freely when my legs were sore and I'd just had my third nosebleed in a day.
Do not judge
Mother Teresa once said, "If you judge other people, you'll have no time to love them." And that cannot be more true in a society where we judge people based on their extrinsic qualities, such as their looks, their clothes and their hair, instead of taking the chance to get to know them better as a person.
A few years ago, I made the mistake of judging someone as a "snobby show-off" even before I had the chance to properly know him. I had mistaken his confidence as cockiness, and I thought, "I would never be friends with him."
Imagine my embarrassment when, upon getting to know him a lot better, I found he was one of the nicest, funniest, most genuine people I knew.
The Bible says the way and the degree we use to judge others will be used against us (Matthew chapter 7, verse 2). And that's quite a scary thought because I wouldn't want to imagine what others would say behind my back!
Admittedly, it's hard not to judge others, but I believe that can be overcome when we start seeing others the way God sees them—through the eyes of love.
And as for the street vendors in Paris? They should be applauded for their tenacity to eke out a living despite harsh working conditions; they're loved and valued by God too.
Michele Ong currently works as a writer for a Christian non-profit organisation. She believes in the power of the written word, and the impact it has on lives. In her spare time, she can be found trying to put together a decent meal, or pretending to be an elite swimmer in the pools. For more of Michele’s articles look here: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michele-ong.html