by Emma Fenton-Miller, May 2013
Over the long weekend I saw a news article about a homeless man who died on the sidewalk around noon on May 10th at the corner of Market and 3rd. The article made clear that while crowds passed by this man who obviously needed medical attention, no one stopped to help him or called 911. Instead, at least one person used their phone to take a video of him as he bled to death. Help was finally called, too late, by a sanitation worker whose job it was to keep that piece of sidewalk clean.
I think most who hear this story are disturbed by our collective "back-turning" on those living in extreme poverty. It probably stuck in the minds of a few, brought them down a little and reminded them that the world is kind of messed up, adding to their cynicism but perhaps not to our collective action.
My first reaction was to wonder if the man who died was someone I knew, since when I left work on Friday a friend told me of how he was very sick and had been vomiting blood, which brought the situation close to home. This is the case for many, such as those who have family members living on the street, those who work with or are friends with someone who is homeless. For many who know someone who is homeless the cardboard thin abstract that is "homeless person" no longer distances in the same sort of way.
Instead of a depressing parable of the disconnection in our society or just a sensationally sad story, it is actually what happened to a real person. While I think it is important and needed to keep looking at the big picture in such an instance, it occurred to me that I should first simply and deeply feel for this person because in a profound way that's what was lacking.