Why do so many, when they see a stranger lying on the street, decide that it is none of their business? Yesterday evening on my way home I came across an unconscious middle aged man. There was a small pool of blood under his head as he lay motionless at the corner of Cork Street and Marrowbone Lane. From the other side of the street, between the cars waiting at the traffic lights, I watched as people on their way home from work stepped over him and continued on their way. With nothing else to be doing, many of the drivers and passengers in the cars sat staring at him as though he were a wild animal in a safari park, and for all they knew he could have been the husband, father, brother, or friend of another driver further behind in the tailback.
No one gave a shit about the human being bleeding and unconscious on the ground right beside them. No doubt they would be the first to raise an unholy stink if someone loved by them had suffered a heart attack, fallen and split open their head on the street, only to die before the complete indifference of passers-by.
Without a moment’s hesitation I crossed over the road and bent down to see if he was breathing, and thank God he was. He was three sheets to the wind and had stumbled and fallen over, banged his skull against the concrete, and knocked himself out cold. His cut was superficial, but he was still a little concussed and needed medical attention. He was alright, but neither I nor anyone else who could see him on the pavement could have known that. My crossing over to him had nothing to do with me thinking I was better than the voyeurs, and it had nothing to do with me being a good person. I’m no better than any other pedestrian. I crossed over because it was my duty to go to his help. It was as simple as that, and I was not the only person who had that duty.
His name is Séan, and he is someone’s son, friend, brother, but he was no-one’s neighbour; Séan is homeless. I suspect that this insignificant fact of his reality may have been the reason for his apparent invisibility yesterday. The splendid irony of this event was that it all took place under a Yes Equality poster. Some people may never be equal in a society like this, and that is truly heart-breaking.