I could not be more disappointed in myself as a person as I am right now.
Yeah, that’s a harsh criticism. I deserve it and even worse. I’ll explain why and I’m sure you’ll agree with me.
I’m sitting here in this coffee shop on what is a warm, yet super miserable rainy day. I’m surrounded by a predominately college crowd working on various projects and assignments. Two girls are merely talking with each other. Am I doing anything productive? Not really, unless you count pursuing the Ikea website in preparation for my voyage there next weekend productive. It is fairly obvious that no one sitting here is hurting. The value of the various electronics and wardrobes is a clear indicator of that. Plus, all of us are sitting here drinking overpriced coffee of our own free will.
It’s fairly quiet as we all go about our business. Everyone seems involved either in their work or their conversations. A typical trip to the coffee shop for me. As I am engrossed in the world of nightstands, a gentleman walks in with a wheelchair. At first I thought mayhaps he had someone else with him in the wheelchair, as that seems logical. Instead, he has a suitcase in the wheelchair. That’s when I notice the walking boot on his foot. As I quickly scan the man, it isn’t hard to see he is most likely homeless. His face is unshaven and slightly dirty. His clothes are ill fitting and wrinkly, as if he slept in them. His heavy winter coat is very out of place in this 68 degree weather. Life, at the moment, hasn’t been kind to this gentleman.
He parks his wheelchair and goes to use the bathroom. I do a quick scan of the room and see that EVERYONE else has also seen this man. He has been inside maybe 45 seconds, tops. Already he has the attention of the entire place (maybe 15 people including staff). It isn’t hard to see that all of them have come to the same conclusion as I have about this fellow. I can even tell that the two girls talking have changed the topic of their conversation to this gentleman as evident by their furtive glances at him (pre-bathroom) and his wheelchair. S0, that’s 15 able-bodied human beings who have seen and registered this man.
He comes back out of the bathroom minutes later and goes to his wheelchair. He does a cursory check of the seats contents before making his way towards the counter. He proceeds to look at the menu and the case of food. He is there for 5 or so very long minutes. It is obvious that he would like to buy something, but can’t. You ever have that moment? Where you see something and think, “If only it were payday…”. While he is standing there looking at the goods, I see that the staff are aware of his presence. None of them approach him. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to avoid moving towards the register. Finally, with a look of defeat and frustration on his face, the gentleman shuffles with his wheelchair to the front door. He exits and heads down the street.
I sat here the entire time and did NOTHING to help this man. Nothing. I didn’t stand up and speak to him. I didn’t buy him a coffee and a sandwich. I didn’t do a thing. Instead, I sat here and thought about it. “You should help that guy out” ran through my head about 5 times. Yet, here I sat, sipping my mocha. Not doing anything is bad enough. THINKING about helping and still sitting here is beyond terrible. What a shitty way to be.
Now, I am not alone in not acting. I have a severe amount of sadness for that. I cannot speak for any of the others here as to why they remained seated. I can’t say they had a good reason for not helping out this fellow, as I know I did not. All I know is that as a micro-community of people, we failed another person severely. We all recognized the situation and completely ignored it with a sense of indifference that was so thick it was practically smothering. Is this where we are as a people right now? Are we so wrapped up in our own “special” little lives that we can’t be bothered with the lives of others? Is it a generational thing? Is my generation (and younger) less sympathetic to the suffering of others? Or, were we just selfish pricks? I wish I could say. Still, I don’t know these people and cannot speak for them. All I can do is take responsibility for my actions. In this case, my failure to act.
I’m deeply ashamed of myself today. I had the opportunity to make one person’s load in life a touch lighter and I just sat here. I was nothing more than a spectator to another persons hardship. Am I saying that the cup of coffee and sandwich would have been a turning point in that gentleman’s life? Not even close. For that moment in time though, maybe it would make a small difference. Remind him, me and the people around us that there is still decency in this world. I have no high hopes that I’ll write this post and inspire the world to be better. Instead, I hope that I can write this post about how I failed at being an adequate human being so that I don’t forget that next time.
All it takes is one small gesture to remind people there is still good in this world. That is something we need now more than ever.