The other day, late morning I was walking through downtown Northampton and I passed a number of homeless people holding signs asking for help in one way or another.
As someone who grew up in NY and frequently visited NYC I was taught at an early age to smile and walk by. This 'skill' was also useful when I traveled to other countries where poverty is much more common and begging on the street is frequent. Have I become jaded to the needs of others? Is this truly a skill or is it sad that I can just walk by and not react. How much of this is wrapped in privilege?
Well this week when I walked by, it was a time of day where there were not many people out and about so I was super conscious of what was going on around me and as I strolled down the street with my $4 chai in one hand and my yoga bag over my shoulder I had an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Here I am thinking that I may struggle to pay my rent by summertime yet on occasion I can treat myself to a $4 chai. I know that even though I am not working a full time job at the moment I am continually doing things to better myself and my situation and I am not sitting by and letting time just pass, I know this for me. However this day more then ever I felt this guilt.
I shared this with some friends the other night and through processing I really think that my connection to this community makes me feel a deeper connection to the people in it even if we have never interacted. As I walked by I wanted to know their story, to treat them to a cup of coffee and my empathy took over and I really wanted to understand their situation. I do not know if it was fear or embarrassment but I did not stop and ask, I just kept walking by with my head hanging low. What was the worse that could happen they tell me none of my business. I hope to get over this and connect in someway to this very real part of my community.
I am sure this is a story that others can relate to and I would love to hear how you have figured this out for yourself.