An instant of weak character

On my way out of the tube station a short while ago there was a homeless man sitting on the left side of the flat section halfway up the exit staircase. Usually, everyone exits on the left (near) side, but as he was there people were taking the right staircase instead.

There were four or five people in front of me as I came through the exit barriers and I recognised what was happening exactly at the moment I reached the bottom of the stairs. I’d been following the person in front of me, looking down, and thought it strange that everyone was walking on the right side. The fact I’d followed someone left me exactly in the middle of the staircase with the handrail in front of me and I had to make a decision on which side to walk in an instant.

For whatever reason, I guess following the crowd, I chose to walk up the right side (after a moment’s hesitation) and immediately felt awful. I tried to catch the guy’s eye as I passed, to acknowledge his existence and to give him a look of “hang in there”, but he was looking dispondently to one side..

What would you have done? Would you have felt the same things? Or walked blindly by without a second thought?

I usually try to at least acknowledge beggars’ existence and very occasionally give them money, but I could never see myself going out of my way to talk to them. The topic was still fresh in mind from a conversation the previous night about doing voluntary work (with someone special, clearly of greater moral character) and it fascinates me that people can be so selfless, interested and giving. I wonder what it is about them that makes them so different from me, let alone the masses, and particularly the egocentric.

I could go on at length, but as usual there are other more pressing matters.. :(

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