Sometimes I’m actually not sure whether my sensitive soul can deal with living in this world. It seems that my heart (soul?) hurts more (when I’m exposed to the hardhships of life) as I get older, insted of less, as I’d expected.
When I was a child and I would cry about something like having a fight with my friend, or getting told off, or a small animal dying, it seemed like a fairly expected thing for a child to do, right? But as an adult, I find those things, and more, somehow even more painful than I used to.
I used to walk around cities, as a late teenager/early 20’s adult, and seem homeless people, and…I don’t know exactly what I did. I still offered them food, but I wasn’t so saddened by their existence. Perhaps I found them a bit scary or something. But now, my heart aches every time I go into the Melbourne CBD, and see the (many!) people sitting curled up under blankets and carboard, on the concrete. Last night I was standing on the footpath at the edge of the street, waiting to cross at a set of lights. Ont eh opposite side was a man, who looked as though he’d fallen down. He had a black bag next to him, and he was kind of sprawled/hunched over, and holding on to one of his legs. I saw multiple people glance at him, and walk past. I thought, what the fuck? What if he’s hurt? When I crossed, I stopped and asked him if he was ok, if he was hurt. Just after I stopped, a guy riding past on a bike also stopped and asked the same question. The guy on the street couldn’t really answer, he was slurring his words a lot and didn’t seem to understand much of what we were saying. I guess he was wasted. Eventually he asked to be helped up; bike guy helped him and I got his bag for him. He was staggering around and I was worried he would fall onto the road and get hit by a car. Bikeguy was helping him figure out where he was going (Coburg?) so I left him to it. I had someplace to be, you know?
I honestly didn’t know what I could really do to help, other than to ask if he was ok, to care just a little bit. As opposed to all the people who just walked past, and didn’t even acknowledge him as another human being. I don’t know what he needed, but I don’t think I could offer it. Certainly, I don’t personally have all the resources to provide food, shelter, emotional support for all the people living on the street in Melbourne. And yet my heart aches to just walk past.
The other day I stopped and bought a guy a Subway footlong (meatball, his choice). Because I was on my way to go buy some hiking gear, and I felt so guilty considering spending a couple of hundred dollars on something I want, but don’t need, while this guy was sitting there apparently cold and hungry. I say apparently, because I don’t know for sure what his experience is (was). That’s how he looked, and what he told me. I have also heard the opinion that you can actually make good money begging, and that some people wll do it even though they are actually alright, financially. Personally, I can’t see the appeal.
But is that enough? Can I buy a guy a Subway, ask another if he’s ok, and then just continue to walk past and do not much else to help? Does the fact that I managed to hold onto my sense of self enough to not get into drugs, to get a house to rent, to get a job, go to Uni, mean that I’ve earned all the privilege I hold and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it? In all honesty, seeing them makes me want to turn away. Because it aches?too much to see. But I keep being reminded of something that Glennon Doyle-Melton wrote (I love her blog), about the refugees in Greece recently:
“But let us not say: I can’t look at this. It’s just too much. That is not true. It is not too much for us. It is too much to be them, but it is not too much to look at them. Please look and remember that if that was our [family] (and it is) we would want good-hearted people to draw close and help – not to look away. We will not look away. We will not protect our own hearts: we will work to protect our human family“
When I think of that quote, I think, I’m doing a disservice to the humans of the world by trying to protect my own heart from pain, by looking away and trying to avoid going into the CBD. How then, to see the pain of the world, but not get engulfed in it? How to witness it, to hold it, to use the pain as a prompting to do more good in the world, without falling over and getting trampled by it, until I’m just crying mush and can’t do anything at all helpful?
That is a question/s I don’t currently have an answer for, and I’m working on it. So far, all I’ve gotten to is this: just love. Just do as much as possible from a place of love, as often as possible. Put out more love into the world.
Working on it!
Ps – I’m anticipating some people might encourage me to volunteer. I have thought about this, and for some reason Im not sure about it. Mostly, although I see that volunteering to help serve (for example) a hot meal to people might be helpful to the person on that day, but would it contribute to a solution to the greater problem? Im not sure.
PPS – I originally copy-pasted this from a word doc, and all the formatting went weird. I rewrote the whole thing, and still wordpress insists on inserting some random characters into the preview and deleting other important bits – like apostrophes – even though it looks normal in the editor section. If you see some random characters that look like they shouldn’t be there, or apostrophes that are missing, please use your imagination to fix them and carry on.