Monday, October 14, 2013


"Nobody Cares!!!!!"

"Nobody Cares!!!!!"

"Nobody Cares!!!!!"

She was walking, slowly, stopping to violently slap the wall as she screamed, "Nobody Cares!!!!!" For a moment, everyone stopped, frozen, watching her advance. "Nobody Cares!!!!!" I've not seen her before, she looked to be living rough, on the street, but that's only an assumption. Her face was twisted in anger and in sorrow and in desperation as she screamed, "Nobody Cares!!!!!"

Most people watching were either sitting at tables in the food court having lunch or carting bags teeming full of Thanksgiving groceries. She kept advancing, albeit slowly, screaming, "Nobody Cares!!!!!" Suddenly, as if as one, we all incorporated her into the landscape, we all slotted her into the part of the brain that deals with people and situations that cause discomfort. The sounds of living joined the sounds of desperation, "Nobody Cares!!!!" She no longer had the prophet's voice, the one crying in the wilderness. Hers was just another, louder, voice in the crowd.

"Nobody Cares!!!!!"

I sat there, watched her. I saw the distress on her face. I saw the violence with which she struck the wall. I thought to myself, "I Care."

I wanted to tell her that I cared.

But I was afraid.

A little of her ... what if she attacked me?

But mostly I was afraid of what caring might cost me. Joe and I had to get home. I had time to care, but not for long. I didn't have a lot of money on me to give her. What if she wanted or needed time or money that I didn't have? What if she began to make demands on my caring? What if she wanted proof that I cared? What if I couldn't meet her expectations? Her distress was towering, my caring would seem so puny as to annoy rather than assist.

"Nobody Cares!!!!!"

I wrestled with myself. I wanted to roll over to her and say, "I Care." I wondered if she just needed to hear a human voice saying that she was cared for. But then, I thought, my caring is simply an abstract thing. I do care, in general, about other people. I do care about people in distress. My caring comforts me, it lets me know I am a good guy - I care. My caring, would not comfort her, she doesn't want to know of my character she wants to know of my compassion.


They came.

The security guards.

It was clear they'd dealt with this situation before. They were kind but they were firm. She needed to leave. She left with them. She put her hand on the arm of the security guard. Like mother and son, the touch seemed to calm her. She even smiled up at him.

They stepped into the elevator and the door closed.

And I was left.

My caring in my hand, unoffered.

As I joined the ranks of  "Nobody Who Cares!!!!!"


Louise said...

I'm sure I would have done the same thing. And been equally disappointed in myself. I'm glad the security staff were kind.

Anonymous said...

The security guards are very much like paid carers in this situation. They are trained in how to deal with persons such as this woman, and can usually best help people like her without endangering themselves, the person in need, or the bystanders.

It doesn't feel good to stand by and witness such goings-on without stepping in and helping. But perhaps next time we see security guards, we can take a brief moment to simply thank them for the job they do--which can be, as you saw, a job of caring.


Mary said...

You care when other people are in distress. That's good.

But I'd suggest you'll be more effective if you take that care and spend it (as I feel certain you do) to make sure those around you don't have to break down to the point of screaming in a shopping precinct to find somebody to care.

Rickismom said...

How often we do nothing because we are afraid of not being able to limit that giving as well.We are afraid , often, also of being manipulated to doing something beyond our comfort zone. I am sure that I would have felt , and acted, as you did. As Louisse noted, I am glad the security guards were nice.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, this pricked my heart. I think it was guilt. Yes, I am guilty of being in the "caring in this situation is going to cost me" department. I have to weigh things carefully only having so much strength, energy and finances in which to help. And the fear that follows - possible attack, time - and worse of all, not really being able to help. I've sat in your seat - and it is not comfortable. I think we need to cut ourselves a little slack. Not so long ago you went out of your way for a guy and his dog. It is the mental health issues that are the most difficult to "help", because they usually take so much more than we can offer with all our best intentions. Your hand may have been empty - but your heart was full.

Moose said...

Just because you didn't do something directly with her does not mean you do not care.

Sometimes the caring thing to do is let the system handle things. When your gut says, "I'm worried but I am also worried about getting involved," trust your gut. Better safe, for both of you.

joanne said...

It is really difficult...but I do disagree that people in distress need to be "taken away" by security guards, the police etc. There are dignified ways of supporting others in safe ways which we can develop some comfort in....can I suggest a mental health first aid course?

Karry said...

This reminds me of a situation that happened to me several years ago. I work with people who have developmental disabilities, some of whom also struggle with mental illness. I saw a man who I knew received services, but who I didn't personally know well, break down in a public place. I was picking up some groceries and then needed to pick up my kids from childcare. I had very little time. I wanted to help, but then walked away.... He was screaming that he missed his bus, and couldn't get home, and was going to kill himself. I still regret that I didn't give him a ride home, although I knew it was in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. I just didn't have the energy at that time. But it haunts me and I still feel bad about it.

Unknown said...

You are a wonderful writer, thank you. With each blog I become more enveloped in the experience that you are describing. We have all lived moments such as this where being hesitant comes at a cost to our conscience. Sometimes though, it happens that without thought we manage to help someone and let them know we care. If we can not find balance, it sometimes finds us.