Blanton O’Neal knows he doesn’t come off well in this story, but the moral is so important that he’s willing to show his flaws in order to share it.
Reporter Frank Somerville shared Blanton’s story on Facebook. In it, Blanton describes how he was taking his son, Sean, to a soccer tournament in North Carolina when they stopped at a gas station for a drink.
The dad sent his son back to the car while he paid. The process took some time, and when Blanton emerged, he saw his son walking from their car toward a man in a wheelchair. Immediately, Blanton made a series of assumptions about what had happened. He wrote:
He was an older African American gentleman, with amputated legs and appeared “homeless.”
My first reaction, sadly, was: “Oh crap! He is hitting Sean up for money and has called him over.”
Seeing his son turn and walk back to the car, Blanton did too. But he wasn’t prepared for Sean’s answer when he asked what the man had said to him:
As I entered the car, I asked him what that was all about.
“Nothing Dad. I just was asking if he needed help. He said no thanks, that he was fine but thanked me for asking.”
That’s when the dad started to see things he’d missed before:
[A]t 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 [11-year-old] 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.
Sean then asked his father if they could offer the man some money. Blanton got another surprise when they stopped and made the offer. The man declined and said:
“No thank you, I’m fine. Your son was a real gentleman and gave me all I needed today. God Bless.”
As they drove away, Blanton watched his son wave to the man and began to wonder whether he would have done the same as Sean.
The dad explained that he didn’t want to share the story in order to get praise for his son. And he knows that he doesn’t appear in a great light. But that’s the point. He wrote:
We spew such bile and hatred on every news channel, every Facebook post, every tweet.
It’s not a right or left thing. We all do it. We have forgotten to look at the world through the eyes of a child.
Blanton knows that his son wasn’t looking to impress his father: “He didn’t even know I would see it.
He just saw a man that he thought needed help.”
And that got the dad thinking about how simple acts of kindness and care can make a huge difference:
If we all just stopped once a day and tried to make one person smile.
One stranger stop and think, “Hey, that was nice.”
Could we make real change?
Blanton acknowledges that his own assumptions in the story “paint a poor picture of my judgment.” But he knows he’s not the only one who thinks like that. He added, “Don’t many of us have the same reactions many times?”
In the end, Blanton had the humility to say that he — not his son — needs to change the way he sees other people. He wrote, “Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the one that needs to change. I just pray the world doesn’t change this kid.”