This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

We've all been there: You're walking in a park or sitting at the movies, and you overhear someone saying something downright awful.

It might be something ridiculously sexist, astoundingly racist, or maybe just so generally insensitive that you can't help but be like...

GIF from "Sword in the Stone."


"Does that person know it's 2016?" you ask yourself in disbelief, grasping at the small sliver of faith in humanity left in your soul.

Last week, while eating lunch at a restaurant, Jarred Wall had a similar experience — except the awful thing said was about people like him.

Wall, an Australian who is aboriginal, overheard two women saying some terrible stuff about those in his community.

"Food was great but to our misfortune we inadvertently heard two elderly ladies, seated next to us, chatting about aboriginals," he wrote in a Facebook post. "The conversation was less than distasteful with words like assimilation thrown around willy nilly."

Though the women's comments stung, instead of unleashing a "tirade of abuse" in response to their words, Wall wrote that he decided to take the high road.

He bought a pot of tea for the women, and left a note on the receipt: "Enjoy the tea! Compliments of the 2 aboriginals sitting next to you on table 26. :)"

Went out for lunch today. Food was great but to our misfortune we inadvertently heard two elderly ladies, seated next to...

Posted by Jarred Wall on Thursday, September 8, 2016

In other words, he fought their hate with a simple act of kindness.

Racism against aboriginal Australians may be a foreign concept for some Americans, but it's a very real thing in Australia.

Research suggests systemic racism against indigenous aboriginals is a "persistent but hidden phenomenon" in Australia, particularly in the workplace.

Similar to how Native Americans still face widespread oppression in the U.S., Australia's aboriginals face unique hardships in the predominantly white, westernized society in which they live.

A protest in favor of more protections for indigenous communities in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015. Photo by Chris Hopkins/Getty Images.

According to Annette Vickery of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative, discrimination against Australia's aboriginals is "an invisible barrier wherever you go."

"It's on every front," she said, The Age reported. "From being included in a mainstream school to accessing normal services that everybody else accesses, to employment, personal loans, housing, private rentals, even accessing a restaurant."

"It is debilitating to people experiencing [racism], because it is like fighting shadows; always there, but hard to prove."
— Annette Vickery

Wall's experience, although unfortunate, isn't unique.

Wall ended his Facebook post with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which shows just how global the movement of communities fighting racial injustice has become.

Including #BlackLivesMatter — which originally launched as a means to end systemic racism in police forces across the U.S. — was a powerful way to highlight that racism isn't just an issue for a single community. Racism takes many forms across many communities around the world, and we should be unified in fighting them together.

#BlackLivesMatter has, at the very least, started a worldwide conversation about how we can get better at ensuring equality for all members of every society in every country and on every continent.

Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

For Wall, his simple act of generosity worked to counter racial bias on a much smaller scale — yet it's proving to have a global impact: His post has been shared nearly 3,000 times with users around the world.

Wall said he simply wants to motivate others to think twice about the impact of their words.

"They were elderly ladies, I didn't want to humiliate anyone or cause conflict," he told Mashable of the experience.

But "maybe these ladies will be a little wiser and think before they speak," he wrote in his post. "Hopefully there won't be a next time!"

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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