A perk of my challenge is that I get to meet new people every day however strange they may turn out to be.
Although strange as this bad connotation, it is just something unfamiliar or hard to understand. Meeting someone new is a very unfamiliar situation, and they can say surprise things. Today, I met Esther on my lunch break, between classes. I decided I would just take the direct route and ask if I could sit next to him. He said sure, not having a clue, so I sat down in the chair next to him. We sat at one of those bar tables where people eating alone always sit (yeah, I have done it before).
I turned to him, again direct route, and said that I am doing this challenge where I talk to a new person every day. He laughed, a lot actually, and said that’s cool. What else would you do if some random person came up to you and asked to talk? I introduced myself and learned that his name was Esther. I check that mentally knowing I had to remember it. Then I proceeded to ask the small talk questions, what year are you, classes you taking, etc, to which I was surprised he was in my major.
My college is really small so it surprised me, but it made the conversation much easier. Later on, Esther turned slightly and said “ohh, they’re still talking about that” to which turned to see the news. I don’t watch the news, so when Esther told me about the shooting in Washington I was clueless. Esther remarked “I don’t care about a shooting in another state”. “Ohh” was all I could reply. “Like 9/11, I didn’t care when that happened because it was in New York. If it’s not in California, why should I care?” My eyes widened, in slight shock, to such a harsh statement. The tragedy in New York was horrible yet it need not bother Esther. That his choice but death should never be so carelessly forgotten.
Seeing the shock in my eyes, Esther revamped his previous statement adding some compassion to his story. On 9/11, Esther had heard that his father’s friend was in New York which concerned more than then anything. The conversation continued on, but I could not forget what he had said.
I said “Goodbye, Esther” and, for the first time, I could tell that someone forgot my name. Looking back, I probably should have said my name, but I just let it go. Later that afternoon, I saw Esther in one of my classes which again surprised me. I had never seen him before but it is a large class with around 80 students, large for my college. It shattered this bubble I seemed to have formed around me and my friends.
Sadly, it is human nature to care more about our kindred, our friends and family, than the faceless masses that are suffering every day. Fundraising companies have known this for years, so they always put a face to the organization, one person that can represent the entirety. People need to make that one-on-one connection otherwise they will not care. It may seem ridiculous that people would rather save one child than give money to save hundreds, but it is true. Esther is an example of a person who surprised me by his statement even though I know the rationale behind it. However, I do not commend or condemn his statement rather it brings up a valid question. Do you only care about your kindred?
The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. ~ Albert Schweitzer