Desensitised

The other night a couple of friends and I were driving home after dinner. We’d had a great meal and were driving with the windows down while we sang along – loudly and, on my part, badly – to some RnB music. As we were driving along, traffic started to back up and people started merging lanes, so I tried to get into the next lane while trying to work out what was causing the delay. As we drew near to a traffic light, I saw a car stopped diagonally to the pole and a push bike lying on the road. It became apparent pretty quickly that someone had been knocked over and as we started driving around the car, I noticed two men helping a young man off the ground; one man on either side with the young man’s arms over their shoulders. I debated internally whether to stop however there was approximately 8 people on the scene, three of them on their phones, and one man running from across the other side of the road, so I figured that we weren’t needed. As we drove off, I noticed one of the people on their phones, a middle aged lady, was walking backwards in front of the young man, gesturing frantically as she looked at him and spoke into the phone, and I assumed that she was calling the ambulance or police or both. I said a prayer quietly as we drove past at a snail’s pace because as with any accident on the road, curiosity gets the better of people and they slow down to watch what’s going on.

As we slowly drove past I noticed a car on the other side of the road; it was a red car in the turning lane, stopped in the traffic with all the other cars, it’s driver door opened wide and the interior car light shining brightly on the red and black leather interior of the car. I made the assumption that the man that I saw running from across the road was the owner of the car and I remember thinking to myself, I hope no one tries to take his car. I don’t know if he took the car keys out of the ignition or not, but as we continued driving, my mind was stuck on the red car with the open door. Every time I think of that car, the word instant comes to mind; this driver’s reaction to seeing someone injured was instant and selfless. The driver just seemed to disregard all else, the other drivers, the car, the potential danger to himself, and ran in to help someone. Most likely a stranger that he will probably not see again and more than likely for little or no recognition. I was still thinking about this the next day and what I kept thinking was that there aren’t enough ‘instant’ people around these days.

My friends and I could have stopped the car but honestly, with around 8 people on the scene, we would likely have gotten in the way or just hung around for a few minutes until the ambulance arrived and left. I have no doubt in my mind that if the scene looked worse than it was, I would have pulled over and we would have all gotten out and done whatever was needed. However in this instance, we weren’t needed. This scene did however have me wondering how many times people walk or drive past a scene and give no thought at all to whether or not they can stop and help. Most of us do it on a daily basis when we walk past a homeless person on the street holding a sign and asking for money. Different context but still a situation where we can help another person but don’t because we’re too used to seeing it; it has become normal and we’ve become desensitised to the world around us. The misery and discomfort of others is all too familiar and all too easy to ignore.

I’ve done it myself when I’ve kept scrolling on a post because it was too graphic. Or when I’ve seen a homeless man on the street and made no attempt to help him in some way. We do it when we see an elderly person struggling to cross the street and we keep driving or walking. We do it when we avoid the awkward guy at the train station or the old lady that stands too closely behind us in the checkout line at the supermarket. We do it when we hear about kids and women and men being trafficked into slavery or prostitution and we just change the channel, or talk about how much it breaks our hearts before forgetting about it and talking about the latest celebrity scandal or sports results. We do it more and more and it’s not until we are personally affected or impacted by something that we start to take notice and want to make a change, when really, we should have instantly wanted to step in and help or do something. So why do we only act when it affects us personally? How come it’s only an issue when it affects our kids? Do others not matter us much as we do?

I’m asking myself this question as much as I’m asking it of everyone else around me; why do we keep our eyes closed to what’s happening around us, only acting when it’s on our front door? When did we stop viewing the lives of others, especially those that we don’t know or those that live on the other side of the world, as less important? We hug our kids and families a little tighter when we hear about disasters and tragedies, but what about the children and families of others? How often do we cross the street to help someone? Or to just talk to someone? When I volunteered as a phone counsellor one of the most common calls I would get would be from people that were just lonely and had no one to talk to. How often do we have a chance to talk with someone, or just sit and listen to someone, but we miss it? How many opportunities did I have to stop and just chat with someone but I had my headphones in my ears, or was too busy on my phone, or I was in a rush and didn’t want to stop, so I just kept walking? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with over the last year or so, but more so over the last few months. It’s something I’ve voiced in a few of my more recent blogs, this frustration and discontent with sitting on the sidelines. But I’m happy with these feelings of frustration and discontentment because, if handled correctly, these feelings can lead to action, which is what I’m trying to generate and do quietly in the background. Things are formulating and coming together but I’m keeping my trap shut because it’s still a work in progress and I’m still not sure what it’ll look like. I don’t have a solution and I don’t have the answers, I just keep looking Heavenward praying for an answer.

All I can do is keep asking these questions of myself and those around me. And keep trying to become better at being more instant in how I react to things. I will keep trying to be more selfless, which in itself is a major work in progress because I want what I want and want it now, which becomes a distraction to everything because it’s all about me! It when I’m focused on myself, no one else gets a look in unfortunately. Sad but true. But I will keep trying because more than anything I don’t want to look back in twenty years and see all the opportunities I missed to make the world a slightly better place because I was too focused on myself and my own issues. I don’t want to leave that behind. One day I will answer to my kids about what I did to try and make their world a better place, and I don’t want to pass on a broken and beaten down baton to the next generation. I want to pass on a blazing torch that will glow far and wide. That is my dream. And because of that dream, I will keep trying to be better and keep trying to inspire others to be better.

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