To The Girl That Laughed
I saw him too. All 20 stone of him, stomach bulging out of his vest, sprawled on the path. Snoring pretty loud, wasn’t he? With just the one shoe on, asleep in public. I get that it was kinda funny. Funny in a way that it was unexpected. Of course you pointed him out to your friends. And you weren’t the only ones looking. It’s not often you see a middle aged man, mouth gaping, having a kip by a church.
First glances, double takes, they’re pretty standard. But you turned back, didn’t you? Hard to resist, wasn’t it? You knew you’d get lots of ‘likes’ for this. Perhaps it’d go viral. You left your friends, you turned back, and you took a photo.
Now, I’m making assumptions here, but I’m pretty sure you’ll share that snap. You and your friends got in your car, you probably laughed about it all the way home. Perhaps it’ll end up on your Facebook. Your mates will think you are the fucking business – good spot.
And while you’re sharing, and commenting, and snap chatting, that vulnerable man continues to sleep. Outdoors. On the ground. He might wake up later (and I’m making assumptions again here) and ask for some spare change. For food, or tobacco, or cider. Or he might not. He might put on his other shoe, tuck his vest into his trousers and stroll off home.
Either way, you laughed at that man. A vulnerable, sleeping man. You thought it appropriate to take a picture of a person as they slept. And not in the spur of the moment, you considered it as you walked away, decided it was the right thing to do and came back.
Did his vulnerability enter your mind? His rights? Did you consider that it might be appropriate to ask a person before you take their photograph? Did you think over the circumstances that led him to be there? Did any fibre of your heart reach out to him, hoping that he was ok? If that was the only place that he had to sleep?
Perhaps we’re living in a society that fundamentally lacks empathy. It’s a world where you’ve got to look out for you, take what the world owes you. As long as you’re ok, everything’s ok, right?
When it comes to people, and human nature, I like to consider myself an optimist. I hope that as you travelled home, you did think some of those things. That you deleted that photograph. That next time you see a vulnerable person in the street, you might wonder what you could do to help.