Work was hard today.
Perhaps I've been pushing too hard with the exercise regime - swimming in the morning, gym in the afternoon, and a walk up Mount Painter in the evening with Sarah. It leaves me feeling lethargic the next day, to the point where you feel like you're walking through molasses.
That is how I felt this afternoon - it was hot, it was late, and I was bone tired. So when we headed to the shops to gather comestibles for dinner, all I wanted was to get in and out quickly; however, something strange happened.
*blip* Pause story, narrator enters from stage right...
You know what is wrong with the world today? Nobody breaks the mold. The vast majority of people simply exist, auto-piloting their way through the working week only to greet the weekend with drinking and T.V. We are encouraged to look after ourselves, doing what is necessary to get the maximum from the least amount of effort.
And do you know what the product of this environment is? Nobody speaks up. Nobody is different; unless they are, and then everyone attacks them like an immune system on a virus. In our haste to not stand out, we keep our heads down and eyes firmly shut.
A group of teenage boys attack another kid, while the adults in their suits keep their phones to their ears and keep walking.
A 16 year old girl is sexually assaulted on a train full of passengers, while everyone keeps reading the paper.
An pensioner is mugged in a crowded park over $10, with the culprit walking away unchallenged.
Why? In what world do these people get to act with impunity? It could be that everyone is scared of litigation, so terrified that they will be destroyed in the courts for defending themselves or others. It may be that men are not allowed to be men anymore; instead, being forced into an 'easy to control' caricature of metrosexuality - one that frowns upon anything that isn't fashionable and completely accepting.
Who knows! All I know is that everyone is so scared to be separate from the shuffling masses that they refuse to help anyone in need, refuse to ACT when the situation calls for it.
As we pulled in to Coles, there was a lady struggling to push her trolley to the car. She had her daughter asleep in her arms, a very young son trying to help push the trolley while she led the front with her spare hand. It looked extremely difficult.... so I jumped out of the car and asked if I could push the trolley for her.
The look on her face is what makes my blood boil; she looked shocked first, then scared, then suspicious, confused, relieved, and finally thankful. We had a good chat on the way to her car, and I got a high five off her son.
Are we not all ashamed of ourselves, given her reaction? How can we not feel we have failed somehow?
It is MY fault that her first thoughts were of mistrust and fright. It is my fault, your fault, and everyone's fault, because we do not stand up and ACT when we need too! Every time we have walked past somebody struggling, ignored someone being abused in public, been too scared to object to bad behavior, we perpetuate a world in which everyone is afraid, and nobody is responsible.
What is the worst that could happen? Well, to be honest, it could be quite bad. You never know who is hiding a knife, who is unstable and violent, who is right or wrong. But refusing to do the right thing because of fear of retribution is pathetic, cowardly, and shameful - and I for one will not be confined to the "politically correct" mode of living.
What can you expect in return? Not much - a 'thank you' here and there, an occasional sneer for opening a door for a lady, and will generally go unnoticed. And notes on your windscreen...
It may not seem like much, but to have a lady take the time to write a thank you note, return to my car, and express her gratitude really made my day - and it also means that Melody knows that next time she is struggling, somebody might just help.
They might feel silly, exposed, daunted, or shy - but they might just break the mold, and start making a better community.