Thomas McFall, or @thomas_mcfall on Twitter, generally uses his social media account for jokes, but his recent post about misjudging someone in his classroom has people weeping extremely sincerely.
McFall explained in a series of tweets that he's been sitting in the same seat in his Management class every single day. He also always sits next to the same man, who he describes as a "foreign guy" who doesn't speak much English.
Hey guys, I know I usually just post shitty jokes on my Twitter but bear with me because I wanted to share something.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
So in one of my Management classes I sit in the same seat in the front every day. Every single day I sit there.
Now, I also sit next to some foreign guy that
barely speaks English. The most advanced thing I've heard this guy say in English is "Wow, my muffin is really good".— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
This guy also has a habit of stacking every item he owns in the exact space I sit. His bag, his food, his books, and his phone are ALWAYS right on my desk space.
McFall admitted that he's been judging this man all semester (though he doesn't admit that part of that judgement likely comes form the man's rudimentary English and McFall's perception that he is foreign—he just says that he is annoying). Apparently, every time McFall has walked into class, the man has had all his belongings scattered across McFall's desk, where the guy knows he sits every day.
Until recently, McFall Didn't understand why this guy would do such a thing. Doesn't he know McFall is coming? But then one day he saw what goes on in the classroom before he arrives:
Now, every single time I walk into class this guy says "Ah, Tom. You here. Okay." And starts frantically clearing my desk of his belongings. He then makes it a habit to say "Ready for class, yeah?" And gives me a high five. Every day this guy gives me a high five.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
I was ALWAYS annoyed with this guy. I'm thinking "Dude, you know I sit in this seat every day. Why are you always stacking your shit here? And the last thing I want to do is give a guy who barely speaks my language high fives at 8 in the morning"— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
Just get your shit off my desk
But today I came to class and was running a few minutes late. I'm standing outside because I had to send a quick text. I could see my usual space through the door out of the corner of my eye. Of course, my desk was filled with his belongings. The usual.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
As I'm standing there on my phone another guy who was also late walks into the class before me and tried to take my seat since it's closest to the door.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
The guy sitting next to me stops this dude from sitting down and says "I'm sorry. My good friend Thomas sits here."
It was then that I realized this guy wasn't putting stuff on my seat to annoy me. He was saving me the seat every morning.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
And this whole time he saw me as a friend but I was too busy thinking about myself to take him into consideration.
Cheesy as it sounds, I was touched.
I ended up going into class and of course he cleared the seat and said "Ah, Tom. You here. Okay." And I did get a high five.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
At the end of class I ended up asking him if he wanted to get a bite to eat with me. We did. And we talked for a while. I got through the broken English
The guy moved here from the Middle East to pursue a college education in America. He plans to go back after he gets his degree. He's got two kids and a wife. He works full time and sends his all his left over money back home to his wife.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
I asked him how he liked America as well. He said he misses his family but it's exciting to be here. He also said "Not every American is nice to me like you are, Tom."— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
I bought lunch, of course. Dude deserves it. He gave me a high five for buying lunch. Gotta keep up tradition.
Moral of the story? Don't do what I do and constantly only think about yourself. It took me nearly the entire semester to get my head out of my ass and realize this guy was just trying to be my friend. Better late than never I suppose.— Thomas McFall (@thomas___mcfall) April 9, 2018
A lot of people are moved by the story because they've witnessed the xenophobia and racism faced by people who visit the United States without knowing perfect English:
I work in a place with lots of internationals, it ain't who we are. People judge low English skill as them being dumber than them, slower etc. İt's a national myth that we're any good with receiving new people. Good story though, wish we could all make breakthroughs— Daren Carroll (@BlackenedToe) April 15, 2018
Specifically working with an immigrant today who is trash talked by 90% of the department. No one frames it as nativism or racism because they think they're above it but really most are just terrible people who also hate on...oh, say, anyone they can to get ahead— Daren Carroll (@BlackenedToe) April 15, 2018
Others shared stories of coming to grips with their own ignorance:
Thomas you just earned a follow. Thank you for this. My husband and I hosted International students who were attending intensive English courses to teach them how to LEARN, READ, and STUDY so that they were prepared for their experience. Most of our students were from one 1/— Lindalemondrop (@pggntfn) April 15, 2018
country. Then we got the opportunity to host 3 Muslim young men, each from a different country and at different times. As much as we had loved all of our previous students, we are still in touch with many, our experience with these 3 will always be cherished and valued for what2/— Lindalemondrop (@pggntfn) April 15, 2018
it taught us about our presumptions and ignorance. They will tell you the same. We had some very deep conversations about their countries and living conditions and their religion. I learned how to cook with halal meat and found a store I never knew existed in my community! Your3/— Lindalemondrop (@pggntfn) April 15, 2018
new friend sounds exactly like the young men we grew to love. I wish we could all open our minds and hearts to people without prejudice.— Lindalemondrop (@pggntfn) April 15, 2018
Some found it incredibly heartwarming, while others pointed out that McFall didn't really do anything except stop being an a-hole to the nice guy in his class who doesn't speak English well:
Tell my why this thread actually made me cry man.. like this is so heart warming— kaleidoscope eyes (@ashleyavila_) April 13, 2018
Seriously? You’re crying because he did the very minimum to be considered a decent human being?— Joelle Duff (@joellecharming) April 14, 2018
Some said it may seem like McFall didn't do much, but you never know how much something small will mean to people:
Never underestimate what may seem to be the “minimum” towards anyone. I’ll never forget my brother telling me after his class reunion that a guy he hardly remembered told him he had come to the reunion to thank him because he was the only one who ever said hi to him in school.— LillyNed (@lillyned) April 15, 2018
And overall, the story being shared and circulated so much means more people will consider how they perceive differences, and judge people based on those perceptions.
Thanks for sharing this, Thomas. I work with immigrants every day. Most are like your new friend in English class: kind, hardworking, friendly, sincere.— KrisS (@MplsMe) April 14, 2018
So happy you realized he was just trying to be a friend to you...gave you both a wonderful opportunity to grow as people. 🙂
You never know who could be a friend if you just make the effort to understand them.