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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!"