Irina Echarry

Cuban woman washing clothes. Photo: Elio Delgado

The man came closer, said good morning, and asked me: “Do you have children?  Well when you do, don’t do that.”

I followed his accusing finger and my eyes fixed on a woman with an umbrella and a boy walking behind her.

“She’s a child abuser; there she is all shaded from the sun and the poor boy is walking behind her unprotected.  That’s something you should never do,” the man added.

My first impulse was to thank him for the advice.  Then I went over closer to the woman and saw her weighed down with bags, sweating and overwhelmed because the boy was restless and didn’t want to give her his hand.

I talked with the boy.  He was tired and it would still be a long time before he got home.  He complained that his mom didn’t want to carry him (he was stocky and around six years old).  I convinced him to take my hand and I led him across the street.  I helped his mother with a few bags and thought, “Couldn’t that man who gave me the advice have helped her?  It’s very easy to judge others.”

On my way home, after I was able to get on the bus and even find a seat, fatigue hit me and almost made me faint.  I saw the skies open when I discovered that an acquaintance of mine was on the bus.  She lent me her fan and talked about I don’t remember what —while I sweated and tried to catch my breath— until her stop came.  She said goodbye and got off.

I felt dizzy sitting in the sun that came in through the window.  I again wondered, “Wasn’t she worried that I couldn’t make it home?  We live in the same neighborhood; I’m only a few stops down, and now I’ll have to get off by myself.”

At once I understood that I shouldn’t think badly of people.  The young woman was perhaps in a hurry; it could have been that people were expecting her, or that she hadn’t eaten anything all day, or that she had something urgent to take care of.

Would I have gotten off with her if the situation were reversed?  I don’t know.  Right now I think I would have, but the cold truth is…who knows.  I’d have to see what my circumstances were.

From now on, I’ll try not to judge people. It’s hard, but I’ll try.


Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

2 thoughts on “To Judge or Not

  • Thanks for a great article.

    Our Cooperative Republic Movement in the United States recognized four major fronts in the struggle for the socialist cooperative state: theoretic, political, economic and cultural. The cultural struggle, while perhaps not a critical as the first three, is still of enormous importance. It means attempting to begin the cultural transformation of the people even before acquisition of the Cooperative Republic.

    The cultural transformation is really a cultural self-transformation of the people. Our struggle for it begins with a recognition that the cultural degradation of the people is a primary means of keeping the citizens enthralled by an exploitative, capitalistic system. The struggle against this degradation includes a call to the people to be more polite, more caring, more helpful and solicitous of others. It is in fact the generalization of the kind of “not judging others” of which you so movingly speak in this article.

    It is difficult to accept, Irina, that the leading Cuban party does not constantly pursue the cultural front of struggle in your country. If the leading party of socialism neglects the pursuit of politeness, tolerance, caring, helpfulness, then how can it advance to a classless, just society?

    I wonder if the warm cultural heart of socialism has been cooled–at least, in some degree–by the sectarianism, bureaucracy and Soviet-type absolutism of the present day in the land of Marti?

  • Irina, thank you for this beautiful story. It will inspire me to be kinder to each and every person I meet today. You show that we shouldn’t make assumptions about other peoples behavior.

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