Character Study: One
I would not choose invisibility or flight. I would not choose super strength. I would not choose devastating sex appeal. I would not choose a money tree in my backyard.
In terms of superpowers, I choose this: An ability to know certainly what the person standing in front of me needs and a willingness to do what I can to help that person meet those needs.
I want the ability to see clearly and the willingness to take charitable action.
I was recently told a story about a young man in his twenties, an immigrant to America. He lives in Seattle, downtown. Let’s refer to him as “Our Hero,” shall we?
One day while walking near his apartment, another young man began throwing rocks at Our Hero. Our Hero tried to ignore him, but the bullying persisted.
“I don’t want to fight you,” Our Hero said.
The Bully kept on.
Something to know about Our Hero: He has a black belt in a martial art and he could see in The Bully’s eyes a willingness to go to the end, to death nearly if not entirely. Our Hero did not want to go there. He could have if he needed to, but he didn’t want it.
Just as The Bully was crescendoing to his loudest, strongest peak, a group of people walked up and Our Hero was able to step in with the group and walk away unscathed.
Once they reached the end of the block, Our Hero asked his newfound fellow travellers, “Did you see that?”
All the people in the group shrugged.
“That guy was threatening me. He was throwing rocks at me. He was going to attack me.”
They were uninterested, unresponsive, apathetic.
Our Hero parted with group and returned to his apartment building. In the lobby he saw his neighbor. Still shaken and scared, he reached out. “I was just now nearly attacked on the street.”
The neighbor muttered little more than, “Hm,” and walked away.
When Our Hero got into his unit, he closed the door and cried. It was hard to say which broke his heart more: The hatred he witnessed in that bully’s eyes or the indifference he experienced from the people to whom he had reached out for help.
We we walk through this life together. We are here TOGETHER! Have we forgotten?
If it had been me there after Our Hero’s incident, I like to think I would have responded differently than the others. I hope I would ask, “Are you okay? What do you need? Can I buy you a cup of tea, talk with you, help you to find your calm again?”
Or something along those lines.
I want to be a person with eyes clear enough to see the suffering of others, with a mind open enough to change my plans when called upon, with a heart strong enough to sit next to somebody in pain and with a spirit trusting enough to know that existential heartbreak is a necessary part of being human, and although we are all seasoned by suffering, it does not define us entirely.
We can overcome. We can heal. We can make it through. Gloriously so.
That is, we can if we help each other.
If we abandon each other, we’re fucked.
I cannot fix it all. I cannot heal all the cuts on all the hearts, but I can help with some. I can do my part to make the world feel more safe, less scary for those who need a bit of comfort like Our Hero did.
And you. You’ll need comfort someday.
And me too.