Learn Things The Hard Way

I’ve recently resumed my lunch time activity – walk. Barangaroo Reserve is my new favourite place to go out and about and stretch my legs around Sydney CBD. It has everything I wanted – quiet, convenient and clean. One mid afternoon last week, I decided to explore the area again, on foot at my own leisure pace of course. I don’t run. It was after 2 PM, that time of the day most workers in the city would’ve finished their lunch and gone back to their offices already. With that in mind, I was looking forward to being outside in a less crowded space on this autumn sunny day.

On my way, I saw a woman on a pavement, standing right next to a street rubbish bin, with a cigarette on one hand, looking rather stressed out. The effects of nicotine didn’t seem enough to take away a deep frown, a serious look on her face. She was just a normal person smoking legally in an open public space during her break. There was nothing out of ordinary about it. Well, it didn’t strike me at first glance but it did only a few seconds later when I noticed the size of her tummy. I thought: Are you for real? You are pregnant and you are smoking! Why?! Being disturbed by what I’d just seen, I felt compelled to walk up to her and tell her to stop. But then I thought: Who am I to judge her? What if she’s a bit overweight, not really pregnant? I have no connection to this person anyway. So, I resisted it, walked away and continued on my own business.

More than an hour later, walking on my way back, I happened to see the same woman again on the same spot doing exactly the same thing – smoking her second cigarette in a matter of one hour. This time round I had an even stronger urge to tell her to “do the right thing” but I decided to stay silent and leave her alone.

When I took a moment to reflect on this, I wondered if there was something I could’ve done better or more. I concluded: No. The beauty of being an adult is we make our own decisions and choices but inevitably we also take our own responsibility. As much as we’d like to help others, and save them from going astray, it’s sad but true and like it or not, some people have to learn things the hard way

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