Empathy

28 Apr

ImageI sometimes wish that I didn’t feel things so deeply. A few weeks ago, I was on the bus heading downtown. We stopped on Broadway in front of the QFC and a few riders got on the bus. One was an older man, with several bags. He shuffled slowly to the end of one of the seats on the left and in the front, the ones that face inward.

He was most likely homeless, from his unkempt appearance, shaggy beard and bags. He was looking for his pass or transfer when the bus driver began calling out to him in a loud voice. Sir, sir, come here, he said. The would-be passenger muttered that he was putting down his belongings. The bus driver’s voice became louder, he unhooked himself from his seat and continued to call out to the man in a voice that resonated throughout the vehicle.

When they both were in the doorway, the driver asked him to step outside and to get off of the bus. But my things … the man said. We don’t want to go through this again, the bus driver said, not hiding the scolding tone, as if he was talking to a child. I’m trying to keep you out of jail, man, the bus driver said. It was a bit heart-breaking. Even if this man has had jail troubles, did the bus driver really have to yell that out for all to hear on the bus? And I’ve certainly been on the bus before when I wished the driver had not let someone on due to being drunk or high or obnoxious. This was not one of those riders.

The older man swore at the driver as his bags were placed on the sidewalk and prepared to drive away. That’s what I’m talking about, the bus driver said, as if some harsh words at that moment justified the humiliation we all had just witnessed.

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3 Responses to “Empathy”

  1. nessajay April 28, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    Thanks for writing about this. When events like these things happen, I’m always left wondering what I could have done. If other riders had stood up for him, what would have happened? Is the problem that we are accustomed to a certain level of injustice in this country? Or that we are cowed by authority? I often think I’ll be brave when a situation like this comes up, and sometimes I surprise myself by actually being brave, and sometimes I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth.

    But it’s these events as much as any election or war that are the opportunities to transform our society. In my opinion.

    • MarygSeattle April 28, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      Thanks so much for your thoughts. I absolutely agree that this type of an event offers an opportunity to transform our society. I am pretty sure that I would have also been thrown off the bus that day from what I saw. But it is a reminder to be brave when we’re feeling it.

  2. Chasing Butterflies: Sunshine and freedom April 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    This story gave me shivers as I read it. It’s hard to believe that people are capable of treating a human being with such disrespect and actually turn around and instead of feeling remorse feel pride. Thank you for sharing it.

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