After two or three weeks of walking the same Boston sidewalk to work, blindness sets in. You begin to unsee the familiar faces finding their seats on concrete, asking for help, needing help. The career-oriented people bustling to their jobs become blurs and backdrops alongside the city skyscrapers. The monotonous hum of the city feeds into senseless-ness, and soon enough, you blindly and deafly move between the sea of people, people who were once children.
One morning, as I passed the usual hotel and Forever 21 on my 6-minute walk to work, I saw the corner flower shop owner starting to open his doors. I could tell his normal hustle was a bit agitated as he turned to the not-yet-visible side of his small store, the side where he placed dozens of bright bouquets every day. As I came around the corner, I first caught a glimpse of an officer standing, looking down at the ground. Within a few steps more, I saw a man bundled in thick clothing lying where the flowers usually rested. Powerfully, the officer began to kick the man’s foot in an attempt to wake him; the owner’s eyes watched the scene as potential customers passed; and the potential customers, the on-lookers and bystanders like me, kept their distance from the sleeping man whose only roof over his head was the shadow of this small flower shop. I’m sure that the sleeping man rose and that a few less-considerate words were exchanged between the men. For me, I just kept walking.
Each day in Boston, I walk those streets, work in my air conditioned office, and fall asleep in my dorm room bed. Cognitive dissonance frustratingly creeps in step by step on my way to and from work but soon wavers as I avert my gaze from people who plead for help. As mentioned during one of my DukeEngage reflection sessions: “People who are homeless were children once.” Instead of allowing the city hum to drown out my value for acknowledging peoples’ existence, I have to remember that humans using shadows as roofs were children once too.