Last week my heart broke a little.
Before getting in too deep let me be clear about two things: 1. I’m not referring to the parental mourning of back to school and 2. I tend to be a bit ‘dramatic’ in speech, so ‘heartbreak’ may be a slight overstatement.
The heartbreak happened as I sat awaiting my turn for a blood draw at a local lab. Routine stuff, my health is good, just need to make sure all systems are still a go and working as they should.
In a day and age where I see a steady flow of studies, opinion pieces and articles on how technology is ruining our society, I find myself more aware and ‘present’ at watching the interaction of human behavior.
As I sat awaiting my turn in a standing room only (SRO) lab waiting room, two eye opening occurrences transpired. Each no better than the next and both leaving me with the heartbreaking question of … What is happening to us as mankind/human beings?
The first came in the way of an elderly couple, husband and wife (I presume). They checked in at the counter and turned to face the SRO nature of the room. They were undoubtedly the eldest of the current room population. One lady quickly jumped up and offered up her seat to the wife. The woman seated next to her (roughly in her 20’s) did not follow suit. Initially the wife of the senior couple declined the offer. The chair sat empty and so she became so inclined. Her husband stood beside her using his cane for support.
My eyes surveyed the room. Sure, everyone in the room was holding either an electronic device or magazine, but everyone did look up to make notice of what was happening. No one else made such an offer.
I’m a cruise director type. My seat was in an awkward place in relation to the one the wife accepted. I was situated between a long bank of people. ‘I’ll offer the 20 something my seat,’ I thought, ‘then the husband can sit alongside his bride.’
As I was about to pursue my thoughts the 20 something spoke, ‘Do you want to sit here?’ she asked. The husband naturally declined and so … he continued to stand.
Within minutes of all this happening, a man in a wheelchair exited the blood draw area. His next destination clear, the door leading to the parking lot.
As he made his way across the room, feet first and hands pushing him, not a single person stepped up to assist with the door. Once again, the room full of people took pause and looked up and did nothing.
Feeling frustrated and helpless once again from across the room, I began to stand. Maybe I could make it in time to help and just as I did, so too did a woman seated on the floor. The man acknowledged her with a head nod and a thank you and proceeded with his day.
This would be about the time that I surveyed the room and took inventory. My mind was racing. What was happening to us, I thought to myself. When did we stop helping one another?
This after all was not a ‘smart’ phone issue, as many reports would like to suggest. This was a lack of humanity issue. When did we stop respecting our elders and giving up seats? When did we start becoming an audience more than a participant in life? I’m still baffled.
These types of exchanges always take me to a personal place for self-improvement. What could I do different?
Initially it was a Facebook post. Then I deleted it, before hitting post. My column space would be a start, but what’s the solution? Do I sit at doors and wait for opportunity? Do I speak up to the group of strangers like Norma Rae of the lab waiting room? I could do both, but then I thought more to the future.
I have a unique opportunity to affect the future, not by what I write, but what I model and teach. I am the steward of two impressionable eight- and 11-year-old children. They will not only know what it means to ‘respect their elders,’ they will do it. They will live it. There is no choice in this matter.
This is not an issue of technology, sure it doesn’t make it easier; it presents its own challenges. This is an issue of being present. An issue of looking one another in the eye, of smiling at a stranger, acknowledging a person for holding the door. Man, the list goes on.
So please, for the sake of all the eyes that are watching and the hearts you may (or may not) touch, be present, be kind and give … to the human spirit.
That’s all. Soap box put away … until next time.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.