Do you know what’s wrong with people? Okay, probably a lot of things, true, but here’s something that’s bothering me today: It’s-Not-My-Problem Syndrome.
Somewhat related: last night, Tony and I saw Les Miserables, and it was AMAZING. I cried. At least three times. I told Tony that I could watch that again, and again, and again and he said, “You couldn’t emotionally handle watching that again.” And he might be right.
But the premise, as you know, is that we should show basic compassion to our fellow humans. “To love another person is to see the face of God” and all that. Why is that so hard? I don’t mean that we should give away all our riches or open our homes to strangers without homes or adopt all the homeless puppies or anything so drastic. There are many small ways to be compassionate, and one easy way to start is to forcefully ignore the voice that so many of us have in our heads that tells us “It’s not my problem.”
This morning, one of the storm drains on our street was backed up to the point of becoming a lake that overflowed the sidewalk. A sidewalk that is used by children walking to catch the junior high bus that picks them up behind our house in the dark of the early morning. These are not my children, of course. When I got to work at called the city, I found out that that was the first they had heard of the problem. Do you know how many people live on my street? How many others drive down the street and have cell phones and could have called it in? Lots. And no one did. It took me, after my meetings and after I made it to work to do so. I fully expected my phone call to be redundant, for public works to tell me that they already had a crew on the way, but that wasn’t the case. I’m glad I called, even though I was too busy to do so earlier.
I have tried for years to develop the idea in my head that it IS my problem, and here are the results: I have called 911 for several accidents, including a crazy one a few weeks back in which a double-trailered dump truck LOST ITS SECOND TRAILER IN AN INTERSECTION. The trailer rolled to a stop without hitting anyone or anyone hitting it, which was a miracle, but traffic was backed up around that for ages. I have called in stray dogs. I have picked up stray dogs wandering on the roadway and taken them to the police station. I have pushed carts that some asshole has left in a parking space or pushed over the curb back to the cart-return.
It doesn’t take much, you know. Just the willingness to spend a few more seconds or minutes of our time to do things that might never be acknowledged. You won’t get a medal for cleaning up the trash you were about to walk over, and surely whoever littered within sight of that trash can was a jerk in the first place, but you can make a small difference. And I will support you for feeling self-satisfied for the rest of the day just for calling public works to fix a storm drain. Or whatever.