In a recent post called The Warrior Sage, I shared some of my views regarding how it is easy being an "enlightened ethical warrior" for a few hours during seminars or in a class surrounded by students who appreciated you, however real life can be a bit more sobering when it comes to being anything close to enlightened and/or when it comes to protecting all others. That said I want to share a recent story with you regarding an incident that happened to me where I fell short of being an "ethical protector."
Here it is Saturday, Dec. 26th, yes, only twenty four hours after that special day where we are supposed to share peace upon the earth and wish goodwill toward mankind. Well, apparently a day can make a big difference regarding the Christmas Spirit and helping your fellow man.
I was headed up North to spend some time away to relax & recharge, but before I took off, I thought I'd quick head downtown to return a gift that I bought. I figured that while I was in the area, I would also stop at my favorite coffee shop, which was just across from the little comic book shop. After I parked in my usual 1hr free parking ramp, I found myself walking a bit faster than usual, unconsciously rushing to leave town. I figured I'd grab a cuppa joe, exchange the gift, and get back in my car to head out. Half way down the heated corridor that connected the parking ramp w/the street just outside the shoppes, I saw a pair of boots attached to a pair of legs. It didn't take long to recognize that those boots belonged to one of the homeless men who frequented the area. His position was strategic, it was warm and it provided a steady flow of traffic to panhandle, as was often the case.
I was in a bit of a hurry and not in a mood to be hassled or asked for money. (I know, Merry Christmas... but what can I say, I'm just being honest). I opened the door and moved past him as quickly as I could, but as I passed, I noticed that he had a blue cast on his arm that he was picking at and wincing. For a moment I considered stopping to ask him if he needed help, but my empathetic sentiments were quickly overrun by my mood of not wanting to be bothered by someone possibly trying to scam me out of a few bucks (as so many times before), so I moved through, the door closing behind me.
Once outside a few thoughts passed through my head: 1) It was colder outside than I remembered. I could understand why he wanted to get out from the elements. 2) To feel less guilty, I consoled myself that if he were "really hurt" he would have asked me for help. 3) Here it was only one day after Christmas and I wouldn't even stop to help someone in need?! What type of ethical protector was I!?
All of this was running through my mind as my feet carried me further from helping him.
After I returned the gift and left the comic book shop, I saw a firetruck w/it's lights flashing, just up from where I was. It only took me a minute to put two and two together. By now I was sipping on my warm cafe' meil, sitting in a nice leather chair. A bolt of guilt and regret shot through me. I realized why the firetruck was there. Getting up out of my seat I looked through the large plate glass window to see down the street where an ambulance had also joined the firetruck. A few EMT's had someone strapped on the stretcher. I recognized the hat of the man that they were caring for. It was the homeless man that I walked right passed only a few minutes ago.
What kind of protector am I, I thought?
It just goes to show how easy it can be to just not give a shit, or care enough to help someone. Here is a great example of the bystander effect in action. I could've just taken a second to ask him if he was alright, but I didn't want the hassle. WTF?! Did I really just do that? Yep! I did! No getting around it. (Commence the hate mail and trolling...)
And this is why I have to continue to train, practice and keep going.
I know some of you are thinking what a hypocrite I am, while others may be thinking how the homeless guy was probably scamming the system getting a free meal and bed for a while; or that he somehow deserved his lot in life because he put himself in that situation in the first place, etc. Whose right? Both, neither, something in between? I don't know. I do know this though: I still have work to do to be a better protector and a more graceful, empathetic human being. No excuses, I'll try to learn from the experience and keep going. It's easy to get caught up in ourselves rather than just doing the right thing. Heck, I'm a pretty good guy, not to mention I make a living teaching people how to be better protectors and I still fell for my own inner asshole, so to speak. Yes, I'm human too! I am under no illusions about myself: I'm no saint... But I'm not a monster either... which brings me a little relief at least.
Like most people I don't like being hassled or scammed by someone, however I didn't feel I was in danger, so I could have asked him if he needed help; that is if I wasn't thinking about my own wants so much. I'm not proud of how I handled that situation. I'm glad that the guy got some assistance and hope he is doing well. I will try to be less selfish in the future. Funny, my last experience that involved a homeless person, I was on the receiving end of a stereotype, now I am the one whose playing the douche bag. Even though I didn't insult the guy, I didn't help him either.
Sometimes it's not as much about learning as it is doing. Simple, not easy!