Did I really just see that?

Today I have been feeling very down about certain things I’m dealing with in my personal life. But my woes were put into perspective by seeing some of humans’ most painful struggles.

My daughter didn’t know me

I showed a video to a group of elderly Jews. It was about Irena Sendler, a woman who saved many children’s lives during the Holocaust. As if her story isn’t crazy enough, it gets crazier when the reporter says that Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and lost to Al Gore.

Yikes.

These days way too much focus is put on the environment and even though somewhere in environmentalism, there is an intention of keeping the world healthy for humans, at the same time, humans are being forgotten. Wouldn’t it be assumed that a woman who put her life on the line over and over again (and was tortured terribly once she was caught) would be more important than a guy trying to stop “global warming”?

After the video ended, I said something about how crazy the whole thing is and one woman said, “No, it’s not crazy.” I looked over and saw tears in her eyes.

She told us that she is one of the mothers who gave her baby away with the hope of the child surviving. Her daughter was taken from her at six months of age. The woman ended up in a camp and was able to get her daughter back when she was almost two years old. “She didn’t know me,” she said.

I tried to ask her some questions about it but she cried and said she didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

The saddest sight

Are humans being forgotten? The Greater Vancouver Area’s population is totally green-happy. It also is home to Canada’s most expensive neighbourhoods and most horrible neighborhood, Main and Hastings. My uncle Avrum Rosensweig has an organization that works with homeless people in Toronto but when he came to Vancouver and walked our proud streets of Main and Hastings, he said they were worse than anything he’s ever seen in Toronto.

On the way home from work today, I was sitting on the bus. When we stopped at a bus stop, I could see a man in a lower place than I think I’ve ever seen anyone. When seeing this poor man, I thought to myself that he must have gotten lost in his stupor (I am assuming from drugs) and ended up in what, for him, is the “wrong” side of town. Living in Vancouver, you often see street people but it seems the the worst cases stay closer to home.

His hair was wild and he was wearing a long, worn-out leather (or plether) coat but what stood out more than anything was the drool running uncontrollably out his mouth which hung open. The saliva ran down his chin, hanging in the air, once in a while dripping all over his clothes, his coat and to the ground. Each step for this middle-aged man seemed like a struggle, taking strength and balance, both of which he did not have much of.

He tried to get on the bus from the back door. I felt very uncomfortable with the prospect of having to spend a few minutes in such a closed space with a man in such a sad state. But he stepped on, as people nervously moved away. The woman sitting next to me must have seen him struggling but had not gotten a full view of him. She stood up to offer him her seat. I was considering getting up too, not wanting to sit next to him, but didn’t want to hurt his feelings, if he was aware enough to understand my actions. So I stayed sitting, watching to see what would happen next.

Suddenly the woman, who’d tried to make eye contact with him to offer him her seat, saw him and turned around, giving me a look of, “Oh my God.”

The bus driver then stood up and yelled, “Sir, get off the bus. Please get off the bus. Yes, you, looking at me. Get off the bus.”

Sir? I almost would have laughed, if I wasn’t ready to cry.

The poor soul got off, staggering backwards off the steps. There was a release of tension though at the same time, we’d all just seen something we don’t see everyday. Human at our lowest.

That man is connected to me. He probably lives around Main and Hastings. I live not more than a 15 minute drive away. My life is interconnected with his, whether I want to acknowledge that or not. I almost feel, for some reason, like I am living off of him.

How is it that I can live my day-to-day life while either purposely and not, I am unaware of how many people are living at their lowest at those exact same moments?

Believe me, forget that I have my own things that I’m dealing with. At least at this moment, I don’t feel too badly for myself. I just don’t know if my life is somewhat of an embarrassment for my willingness to live it without trying to make more of a connection between it and the lives of those so much less fortunate than myself.

And it is a horror that we give more importance to a man who says that global warming is “the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced,” than a woman who saved lives.

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13 thoughts on “Did I really just see that?

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  1. I think that instead of humans being forgotten, they are just being shadowed by our umbrellas, our work, businesses, how we make money is still more important then saving lives never mind saving the environment. I do my very best to always remember that I’m just a human, though I sometimes get inticed into the glitz I’m very lucky to have people in my life to refresh me that its all a choice.

    I think its more economical to save the planets life, then to save our own:
    first – she has millions of years in organization to defragment and do most of the work for us, unlike humans we hire shrinks, doctors and other specialists to tend to our form.

    I’m on the side of the human, the planet knows her thing, she can feed her self, filter her population with no ego.

  2. Wow, Deena, I can’t freaking believe the driver kicked him off of the bus. That’s terrible. Absolutely awful! Wow.

    And yeah, people are way too concerned with the environment. But they don’t even bat an eyelash when people are murdered around the globe anymore. I don’t understand why people are such sheep. They don’t even stop to think.

    I feel so sorry for that poor woman whose daughter was taken from her, but I’m so happy she got her back….

    I don’t know what else to say. This is the same world that made Ahmadinejad the “guest of honour” at an anti-racism conference. Yeah, ignore him calling for the extermination of the only Jewish country on earth, persecuting the Jews, Christians and Bahai of Iran and sponsoring international terrorism. And for declaring Bahrain is historically part of Iran…no, none of those things are racist whatsoever…

  3. Are you sure it’s a terrible thing to have kicked him off the bus? It hurt me and it hurt me how he raised his voice to the man, but was it wrong to do?

    We definitely live in a crazy world.

  4. I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do – it’s a difficult situation to handle. I just wouldn’t have kicked him off….sure, he seemed scary, but I doubt he was going to hurt anyone? I wasn’t there so it’s hard to tell.

  5. very touching stories dee!

    Crazy about the women who gave up her baby…and got him back. I wonder if anybody has ever documented her story.

    and crazy about how low we can get. what are we sopoused to do when we see a person like that man? Is it enough to appreciate our situation when we someone so low?

  6. First I’d like to say, as someone who takes the bus often, there is no school like the bus… I have some bus stories myself.

    Second, personally I don’t put much stock in the Nobel prize. How can I give any serious consideration to the Nobel Peace prize when it had been given to a known mass-murderer (Namely, Yasser Arafat)? Now that – that is truly horrifying.

    That being said, I do agree with you that there is an element of disregard and sometimes even hatred towards human beings among environmentalists. When a spokeswoman for a green organization condemns the Hammas for rigging a donkey with explosives (which is, in my animal-lover eyes, unforgivable) without making a single comment about countless men, women and children who were killed in suicide bombings (which is, in my humble moral opinion and human-loving eyes, also entirely unforgivable on quite a different level) you have to wonder what is wrong with this world.

    However, I do not think there is a problem with prioritizing here. Just like Arie said before me, environmentalism is about humans too (if you really want to go into it there are several different points of view in this – I’ll send you a paper I wrote in Ethics about this) – it’s just a broader point of view, more long-term. And I think if there was any sense in the Nobel prize it would give more weight to whatever had more of a general impact. Irena Sendler is without question an incredible woman who deserves a prize, a huge prize – just a different one, something more real and less universal than the Nobel. I may be entirely wrong in this, but I think in the final analysis the Nobel is for great ideas, it just happened to be given a few times to great people. Irena Sendler is a “Tzadeket”, a real woman from which we should learn about greatness.

    Now about your poor banished passenger. I don’t know what I would have done in the driver’s place. On the one hand he has a responsibility for his passengers. On the other hand – I can’t help wondering when human compassion went down the drain. I wish it could be simple, but it isn’t – it never is, and frankly – that’s what I love about life. God puts us in impossible places and impossible situations – including this poor man – and we just have to find our place in all this, and , not to sound heartless, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thanks for another piece of gold!

    1. Tamar, Thanks for reminding me about Yassar Arafat. I suppose we often want to see that people are making normal decisions, even if in the past they didn’t. We think, Maybe this time they’ll make a good decision. But I hear what you’re saying about the Nobel prize and Irena maybe deserving a different kind of prize.

      Mir and Tamar, as for the banished passenger, the driver had a legitimate reason to throw him off: He got on in the back without paying. I’ve seen drivers do this with other people. Sometimes people try to sneak on the back and sometimes the drivers let it go and some drivers get all tough. I actually normally love watching it. I mean, I know that embarrassing someone is terrible, but I hate that so many people are cheating the system here and when you cheat a system in a public place, you might be reprimanded in a public place. You actually have to see this. The driver puts the bus in park, stands up, turns to face the passengers, and yells at the person. I’ve watched some terribly awkward moments as people, teenagers and adults, had to quickly jump back off the bus as the driver screamed at them and said we aint goin’ nowhere until that person gets off. Once, this middle-aged woman had gotten on in the back! And she looked so embarrassed when kicked off, at first pretending the driver wasn’t screaming at her.

      But this man was different. Sometimes drivers let really down-trotten people just get on without paying. Maybe this is the driver that never lets anyone on for free, but I don’t know.

      Should he have let him stay? I still don’t know. But Mir, thank you for wording what I was trying to say. I believe that the society I enjoy and benefit from, is the same one that creates these people. Even though, supposedly, one of the reasons the homelessness is the worst in Vancouver of all Canadian cities is because this is the only place in Canada with relatively moderate weather. And even though I know that homelessness is a very complex issue.

      Still, there is a major problem.

  7. That man is the saddest story. I can’t believe he was kicked off the bus! He may be down, he may be weird, but there are no rules that say down and weird people can’t travel on buses. He needed to get somewhere, and he can’t because his presence makes people uncomfortable. And he is the way he is because of that society, so people should take responsibility, or at least tolerate.

    I think we can truly say he’s a product of his society because from what you and Avrum say, homelessness is worse in Vancouver than it is in Toronto (and it’s worse in Toronto than it is in other places). The point is that homelessness is not “just how it is.” It happens, and things cause it. If a society suffers from it, it’s because of that society.

    So sad.

  8. Its not so much about homelessness but Addiction that robs oneself of self-respect, and all sense of control, taking one to the very depth of suffering and personal hell. Until society and the government starts treating Addiction as a disease and offering more treatment centers there will be more people like you saw on the bus. This Harm Reduction plan the B.C. government has implemented hands out free Methadone and looks to find ways to manage Addiction. What a joke! Coming from my experience as an Addictions Counselor and working in this field today, I see directly how ineffective the Harm Reduction plan works.

    1. Steven, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It’s so interesting to hear about it from someone who works in the field. Do you have a good source on the Harm Reduction plan?

    1. I guess just a website you know of where I can read a little about this to better understand what you’re talking about. No worries. I can just google it if I want. Tnx.

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