Thursday, October 15, 2009
Compassion for the Lost, or Not
Tuesday evening I caught the eye of a young man who was changing directions on a street corner downtown. He had just spun back around again as I walked up. On the slight side, sporting a nylon jacket of red, white and black, he approached me with an expression of mingled anxiousness and pleasant surprise. He was in the vicinity, he said, but needed help finding the rest of his way. The address he gave was unfamiliar. His English was fine and I presumed him to be a Japanese student at the University, though neither prevented me from talking a little too loudly as I offered my assistance. I looked left and right. He handed me a piece of paper bearing detailed instructions from map.com. I took them in, puzzled for a moment, and then pointed him toward what I imagined to be his destination, wishing him good luck with a friendly pat on the arm. He thanked me and walked on. Steps later I realized that I had just sent him off in the wrong direction, entirely--not because I didn't know the way but because I had been simply unable to make any present sense of the words that clearly told me he was in the wrong place. It was not a few blocks' walk, it was a bus ride away. Should I turn and go after him? Back at my car, I thought I might find him and offer a ride, since where he wanted to go was practically on my way home. I could have at least helped him get to a bus stop. Instead, I drove home, and left him to wonder at another strange intersection, somewhere yet further from where he'd hoped to be. Not exactly not my problem now, is that right?