Yesterday, we decided to walk from the Ocean down State street which runs into the main downtown area. It was Fiesta and the streets were full of various types of folks. Music filled the street. It was a happy if strained happy feeling. The bars were full and spilling out into the street. It reminded me of New Orleans.
We walked slowly taking it all in until I saw a small boy sitting against a tree on the edge of the street. He looked about 14, the age of my grandson. He had 3 or 4 quarter sized wounds or lesions on his face. He raised his voice to he barely audible level to ask if we had any spare change. I walked on. We have all learned to walk on.
However, because of his age and appearance, my body walked on but mind stayed with him. In small measure, my thoughts are still with him. I did not ask him anything. I did not speak to him. I did not offer any kind of help.
I wonder how I have become such a person? I have known I was "scabbing over", as I like to put it. This has gone on for quite a while. Only rarely does any street-person penetrate my mind enough to elicit even a trace of compassion. I think some call this street-wise.
I would stop at the scene of an accident or if someone fell. I have done that. But my barrier is pretty high. Active eminent physical threat is necessary to stop my motion. I have stepped over unconscious adults. But I would not step over an unconscious child. Of course, I have never seen an unconscious child.
I know I am not alone in my behavior. I wonder how others feel as they pass scenes of despair. As we pass a ragged, filthy hallucinating person. Do we judge them? Do we ignore them? How have we learned to ignore. It must take practice.