By Alexa Keating
How prevalent is the practice of pretending not to see? Every day, all day, in every walk of life, in every corner of the world multitudes of people are pretending not to see. We avert our eyes from homeless people or needy families, from child abuse and domestic violence and every other blight society has to offer. We do this while firmly believing we are fine, decent people who would never hurt others; and so we pretend not to see. There are reasons we do this.
We pretend not to see homeless people because many times we are afraid of them (they may be addicts or criminals) but mostly because we don’t want to get involved or assume responsibility, even for a lunch. Some we imagine are simply gaming us and are not really homeless at all.
Needy families are far more complicated. We see their suffering and look away or ignore the obvious. We don’t want to be responsible for what we imagine is an enormous investment of time, effort and funds to lead the way out of crushing poverty. When we choose to do this we typically only see two options; we can become responsible for helping to make a change or quietly judge the ones we imagine are responsible and find them lacking, allowing us to pretend not to see. After all, we worked for what we have and they should too. And there is Welfare and other social programs available for them.
We pretend not to see domestic violence because we fear the consequences of becoming involved. We are all too familiar with the stories about those we are trying to help who run right back to the abuser and resents or becomes angry with our efforts to intercede. We risk becoming a reluctant hero turned villain and that’s pretty scary.
Child and elder abuse is disturbing, even sickening. How could we pretend not to see utterly helpless victims? The most prevailing cause is the fear of exposing someone in our own family or a friend to the consequences if we report this. Even while we feel guilty about what is happening to the victim, we are pulled to a place of indecision and a refusal to act through our efforts to protect someone else.
The human spirit is broken by homelessness, crushing poverty, domestic, and elder and child abuse; in fact by any abuse or inequity. We know this; but pretending not to see chips away at our own spirit. In some sad way we become a part of the problem by merely being exposed to it. Good things can arise from our exposure. Our ability to feel empathy, understanding and compassion is aroused. These are the finest traits of humanity.
We can encourage the homeless; providing even a lunch and a smile is an acknowledgment of their existence allowing them to be recognized as valuable people who deserve to be seen. Families caught in poverty may need help in finding options that are available through social programs. We can search for those and help them get to the proper agencies to assist. Sharing clothing and other things we have in excess with encouraging support is essential to a new beginning.
We like to pretend that domestic violence is not the same as child abuse but both are heinous, devastating and deadly. We are called on to make the most difficult choices when we care about the abuser. We are choosing to act when we refuse to act; doing nothing is doing something. We are allowing behavior that is destructive, life altering and may lead to the loss of life to continue because we hesitate or refuse to act. Difficult or not, we are our brother’s keeper. Our real choices are to choose to respond to the issue, react to the consequences of not responding or pretend not to see and then we damage our own spirit.
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