Obliviousness is the worst human quality and yet there is evidence of it all around us. It’s the person on the bus who insists on folding their newspaper in front of your face as they turn the pages, it’s the person who refuses to give an inch of space when you sit next to them on the train, and it’s in the way that we block out other people and concentrate only on our own problems. Perhaps the more ‘successful’ we become in society’s eyes, the more we lose contact with people around us.
Thankfully though all is not lost. It is still possible to find hope in the goodness of the human spirit in the most unlikely of places.
I am reminded of a scene I witnessed a few years back while waiting at an inner city bus stop. While standing there I watched as two men approached a nearby bin. Both men were obviously homeless and well acquainted with life on the streets. The older man had the appearance of an ageing rocker with his weathered face, stonewash jeans, old thongs and dirty shirt which hung loosely from his rakishly thin body. He gave the impression of being the leader in this two-man gang. His friend had a sadder aura, like the weight of the world was resting on his shoulders. Wearing old blue jeans and a shirt that had definitely seen better days, he wore no shoes and his dirty and damaged feet clearly showed the effects.
The first man began to sift through the rubbish in the bin while his friend waited to one side. Digging down through the surface layer of garbage the leader pulled out a not-quite-empty cup of takeaway coffee. Drinking some of it he then offered the rest to his friend who gratefully gulped it down. Watching them share that half finished cup of coffee restored some of my faith in the human race. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a moving gesture of friendship and consideration as that which passed between the two men that day.
After drinking their coffee the men moved further down the street and onto another bin, no doubt to share in any further spoils they found. Does this event stand out in my mind because so many of us have become overly mean and self-obsessed?
Children are taught the importance of sharing and we try to instill in them feelings of compassion and hope, and yet so much in the world preaches the opposite. We are all so inwardly focussed and concerned with our own lives that we can quickly forget that other people struggle too and no doubt have similar problems to our own.
We fail to remember that we are all from the earth regardless of what country we are born in, who are parents are, what we eat, what we believe or what we end up doing with our lives. By turning our attention and energies a little more outwards, we would be in a better position to recognise our similarities rather than focus on our differences. It doesn’t take much effort to make a positive difference in the world – a smile, a touch, a kind thought, or perhaps even sharing a cup of coffee from time to time is all that is required.