We live in the media age. We have permanent access to rolling news, something happens in Australia at 1:00, it could be being reported in the UK by 1:05.
I think we have a responsibility to keep up with the ongoing events in the world, as so many of them affect us either directly or indirectly.
I am possibly one of the most opinionated people I know.
And as such I have decided to create a platform for those opinions.
Ordinarily I write here about events in the news which I
have opinions on, however something I experienced yesterday has compelled me to
share it here and to ask the question, have we lost all sense of compassion?
Yesterday on a train from London Charing Cross a woman got
on at Waterloo East, stood at the entrance to the carriage and began to
speak.Initially I thought she was some
kind of religious evangelist about to speak the word of whichever religion she
might represent, however after telling the carriage her name and saying that
she meant no offense, she then proceeded to say that she was homeless, that she
had nowhere to sleep tonight, and that she would be very grateful if people
could spare any change they might have in order that she be able to be safe and
warm tonight.She said that the streets
of London are no place for a woman to be sleeping, and please would people
consider helping her out.
The previously quite noisy carriage was stunned into
absolute silence, and no-one said a word as she shuffled through the
carriage.No-one gave her any money
either.As soon as she’d gone people
resumed their conversations, all apart from a group of young girls behind me
who started talking about how awkward that was etc.
A few minutes later she came back through the carriage and
got off the train at Lewisham.I can
only assume that she may have continued to get on trains, going from one stop
to another and then ultimately back again, and who knows how far she had come
or how far she would go.
But what surprised me most was the reaction I got when I
posed the question on Facebook and twitter, “if a woman silenced the train
carriage you were in then said that she was homeless and could people please give
her money, what would you do?”I had
expected a few people to say that they would give money, or food, had expected
some to say that they would ignore her and do nothing.However the responses I got ranged from “I
would wonder where she got the train fare from,” as the majority response, with
one stating that “I would see the train manager and ask for her to be removed
since she clearly won’t have paid to be on the train,” of about 25 replies only
three would have given her anything, two would have given money and one said he
would give her food.One even stated
that she would move to another carriage.
I will be the first to hold my hands up and state that I
wouldn’t likely give money to a homeless person, not necessarily because I
think that beggars are fakes just wanting to make money, but because a lot of
people on the streets have substance abuse issues and I would feel
uncomfortable giving someone money in the knowledge it might go to fund an
alcohol or drug habit. But there are many homeless charities out there and I
would give to those, and am about to sponsor a friend who is going to go to
Everest base camp in order to support such a homeless charity.
But while I might not give to individuals, I do wonder how
we have developed into a society who can display such open hostility towards
someone who is clearly in a worse off position than they are. Hostility that
would state they would move to a different train carriage to avoid being in the
same space as that person, for instance.
There is no way of knowing whether the woman on that train
was genuinely homeless or not.However given
the response she received I don’t imagine that riding a train line on a Sunday
afternoon asking for money is a very lucrative pursuit, therefore I can only
conclude that she was indeed someone who is in a worse off position than the
majority of people who would see fit to judge her, and is at least deserving of
some compassion if not our cash.
So how is it that so many people feel unable to even feel
compassion for someone in a potentially vulnerable position?