Monday, May 10, 2010

Walk on by

I read the news each morning to keep up with what is going on in the world around me. Usually this is a slog through the standard depressing, oppressive, hackneyed fare. Military conflicts, troubled celebrities, national disasters, politics, economy issues. Maybe if you look around hard enough you can find a story or two that is interesting, uplifting, funny, or informative. Oftentimes, however, I run across stories that make me shudder as I realize the cruelty and savagery that is man at times. They usually involve the wanton killing or abuse of children or innocents, people who are in our society that act in such animalistic ways that they negatively impact all who come into contact with them, stories of premature or unexpected death of special people, or the state of humanity and what we seem all too often capable of doing (or not doing). After these encounters, I just wish that I could erase the haunting images from my mind.

A story ran the other day about a good samaritan who ran to the aid of a woman being mugged. In the scuffle with the attacker, he was stabbed multiple times in the chest. His wounds were too much for him to bear and he fell to the ground bleeding. As he laid there dying, more than 20 people walked past him on the sidewalk. Many were so self-absorbed they did not even notice him. Several purposefully glanced at the man on the ground only for a moment before they went back to their own worlds. My guess is that nearly every one of those who passed by the man on the ground had a cell phone in their possession. Why didn't anyone call for assistance? Could it be they just did not want to get involved? They did not want to be late for work or their meeting at the coffee shop? Is this kind of violent scene so commonplace that we have become immune to noticing it and taking action? The whole story sickened me. I then had a sudden flashback to a related incident that happened to me.

On a Saturday many years ago in my college days, I was walking from my apartment to the grocery store. It was bitter cold outside, well below freezing. There was no snow on the ground, but everything was frosted and frozen. On my journey, I cut through the parking lot of a neighboring apartment complex and traversed a small embankment. There, I came suddenly upon a still, topless figure in a miniskirt laying face down on the ground. The scene was so unexpected that I panicked a bit and gave the person a wide berth. Avoiding prolonged eye contact, I hastily continued upon my journey. After finishing my shopping, I headed home. When I returned past that same spot, the person was on the ground in the same position. There was no other soul in sight. I headed home and called 911. A short while later, the police called back to thank me for the report. The person, turned out to be a stupid college kid who had gotten himself drunk and passed out on the ground at some point during the night. He would survive. However, I did not immediately rush home and call for help. I completed my errand first. My behavior was not because I didn't care, but because I was afraid and more than a little bit shocked. Not that it makes any difference now, but I can only hope that this was the reaction and excuse for those who let the good samaritan bleed to death on that sidewalk.