There are so many things that keep us from being able to help other people.
Years ago, when I was an apartment manager, we had a couple in our complex. She was about five months pregnant with twins, and I think they had a small child as well. This couple was nice, paid their rent on time and never really hit my radar until the night that the woman went into premature labor. That night was a crazy night. One of their neighbors had too much to drink, and as this couple were in full crisis, leaving their apartment to go to the hospital, she came out of her apartment and rushed the dad with a baseball bat.
Now he was a really big guy. He had every right to use his might and force in that moment, but he just took her bat away and told her to go home. The neighbors that saw it, told me it was amazing to watch.
The next day, I finally caught up with the dad and got a few moments with him to see how he, his girlfriend and the babies were doing. We leaned against a wall and talked. They had lost their babies. His girlfriend was stable. Lack of sleep and grief had brought him to a crisis point. He heaved more than sobbed, but when I tried to offer a word, his rage at life boiled over. “You have no idea what it’s like to be a black man. You don’t know what it’s like to be me.” It was a cry from the heart that continues to echo in my memory. In all my years of working with people, I have never felt so helpless.
I didn’t back down though. I told him that he was absolutally right, but I know what its like to be a human – and at some point, we all hit the bottom and need a friend.
His statement haunts me. How many people don’t want to listen to what I have to say because of social barriers? Is this fixable? On the other hand, am I obsessing stupidly? There are six billion people on the planet. Does it need to be fixed?