I was walking to the train station this morning and came across a man lying in the middle of the pavement in the rain. I didn’t know if he was unconscious, hurt, dead and I was the only one in the stream of busy commuters who, with trepidation, tried to rouse him and see if he was ok.
It turned out that he was drunk and lying in the rain as he had been asked to leave all the places of shelter that he could find (the station, the supermarket entrance) and had nowhere else to go.
To be honest, I don’t know if my interaction did any good to the situation, although I think he appreciated the kindness of a stranger, someone showing that they cared.
I asked if there was anywhere he could go to shelter from the rain and he started shouting in anger about being thrown out of the only places of cover that he could find. In that moment I understood why he had been asked to leave all of these places.
But nevertheless, it pains me to think of all those people who were passing him by without a second glance.
It pains me to be confronted with the reality that I’m often the ‘busy commuter’, too pressed for time or too scared of getting involved to reach out to another human being.
It pains me to think of this messy, imperfect, broken man who is most likely struggling with addiction, mental health issues and has ended up lying in the street in the rain.
And what is there that can be done? It feels like the world is hurting and I don’t know what can be done.
When I stay with these feelings, I realise that what I can do, what I need to do, is keep on reaching out.
Who knows, the care I showed him might be one of the turning points that leads to him getting his life back on track. And the care I showed him also benefits me – connecting me to what it is to be a human. Connection, reaching out, looking out for each other. And if that’s the only thing that comes of reaching out, that’s alright by me.