When I was in the woods today
I had a bit of a start
She walked past
without seeing me
I didn’t blend in or camouflage
she just didn’t seem aware of me
Her big brown eyes were shining
here ears were flagging for noise
The nose twitched and searched
and still I wasn’t there
How many times, in a week, do I make others invisible? Do they know that I don’t see them? Do they care? I was taken aback by the doe’s reminder of my insignificance. She said ” your presence here means nothing to me” “you are of no value and offer no threat so for my purposes, you don’t exist.”
When I pass someone sleeping on a bench, without feeling anything, am I saying the same thing? If a woman is crying and I ignore her, am I signalling that her problems aren’t mine? When someone in front of me litters and I don’t say or do anything, have I also ignored his and my responsibilities?
Being observant is the first step to empathy. If I am able to erase human tragedy, suffering, or delete behaviour that is offside, I can’t possibly begin to understand enough to care or care enough to understand. After observation comes acknowledgement, ” I see you and I see your burden.” ” I feel your pain.” ” I need to say something or do something.”
Step three is deciding. So at this point, you are still off the hook. You haven’t made a commitment to action. I make decisions easily; too easily many would say. So I don’t know what process you go through to choose. You might do a pros/cons list or a cost-benefit analysis or need to do more research (which is really just an excuse). You may find reasons to intervene or evidence to rush away. If you choose to ignore what you have observed and acknowledged, you are likely already dozens of meters past the situation and like the deer in the forest have said ” you are of no consequence to me.”
On the other hand, if you choose to say or do something act quickly and with respect and compassion. Be open-handed, open-hearted, and open-minded. “He who hesitates is lost”. Do or say what comes to your mind. Trust that you don’t need a PhD in Caring or Respect before you know how to be human. You have been training for this all your life even if you have ignored the lessons or avoided using them, you’ve got this. You’ve got this because it doesn’t need to be perfect. ” Are you okay?”, a smile, sit in silence beside someone, be a fellow human, can change the moment. You are saying without uttering ” I see you, I care, Can I help?” or ” We are rotating on this sphere together and we both need to do our part to make it better” or ” today you are down, tomorrow it could be me”
I can’t predict what you will, could or should do because I am not you, in your shoes, in whatever situation you are finding yourself. I can guarantee that ignoring what is in front of you is complicit with the issue that troubled you enough to get to deciding. Caution and neutrality are always complicit with the antagonism or aggression in the circumstances. If I don’t care enough to intervene, I don’t care at all. If I don’t care enough to say something, I become part of the problem.
I hope you choose to see those people and behaviours in your world, today, tomorrow and tomorrow again and that you find the compassion and courage to stand with someone you know or someone you will never know.
Make Today Remarkable, or at least bearable, for someone else,