As a society, have we become desensitized to the needs of others because of all that is going on in the world? Is it self preservation to ignore the needs of others? Or is it an urban experience where we wrap ourselves into a cocoon?
A few days ago while working in a 24-hour Internet Café, a young man who I will call Nick, in his thirties, was working on one of the computers. It was evident that he was having a really difficult time based on his requests to the person on duty, who I will call Andrew. He wanted to upload his resume online but had only a hard copy. Nick scanned the resume, but there was no optical recognition software that allowed you to copy and paste.
Nick was constantly asking Andrew for help who responded that that was not his responsibility. Nick felt that he was paying to use the computers, so Andrew had a responsibility to help. There was a lot of back and forth and Andrew walked off clearly upset. Nick was completely frustrated because he wanted to post his resume online. In desperation, he started going to all the patrons in the Internet café asking them for help.
Patrons ignored Nick and looked everywhere except at him. To them, Nick was invisible. I spent some time trying to help him, but there was no software, which allowed us to copy and paste the scanned resume. In the end I told him there wasn’t anything else that I could do for him. He refused to type his resume because he said it would take him three hours to do so.
In this age, it is the expectation that you are proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel and have a working knowledge of PowerPoint. It is also assumed that you know how to use email. While I was trying different ways to help Nick, I emailed him a scanned copy of his resume because he did not have a flash card. He did not know how to download an email attachment so I had to show him how.
Yes, Nick is supposed to know all these things, but he does not, so does that mean he should be ignored and treated like an invisible person? What are our obligations to each other? Are we our brother’s keeper?
Another question, is what happened to Nick an isolated incident, or is it symptomatic of something more pervasive in society. Are we simply suffering from apathy?
In my Raja Yoga class, I am taught not to give or take sorrow. I felt incredibly bad about Nick so a few days later I typed up his resume and emailed it to him. I have not heard from him so I suspect that he is not on email frequently. Did I take on Nick’s sorrow? I felt his desperation and was feeling helpless because I did not have the tools to assist him.
Were others feeling helpless as well, so they decided that ignoring him would be easier? Or are we simply living in the worst of times? What can we do to support each other to be the best without taking on their sorrow. Ignoring people and treating them like they are invisible isn’t the answer. Is a smile a starting point when we are feeling helpless and cannot help?