On Dehumanization and Avoiding Interaction

A few weeks ago I was outside enjoying the summer weather when a man came up asking for spare change. I, like others in the area, politely expressed regrets. He moved on.

Once he was gone, the woman next to me, who had been actively ignoring the whole situation, took out her earbuds and leaned over to me. You know, I’m not really listening to anything. I just put these in so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. You should do it!

I was a little taken aback.

Now, to be perfectly fair, I know plenty of women who listen to music or put in head phones to avoid the constant harassment they face while simply trying to walk down the street. And there are certainly times when – even in a crowd – one might want to avoid social interaction.

But this woman had no problem talking to me – she just wanted to avoid talking to a possibly homeless man.

And she was proud of it.

The man wasn’t causing problems. He wasn’t harassing at all. He was just asking for change.

One might prefer to give money to great organizations like the Somerville Homeless Coalition, or support those in need by buying the Spare Change newspaper, but regardless of whether you might give the person change or not –

He was still a person.

It took two seconds out of my day to acknowledged his existence and tell him I couldn’t help. It was honestly the least I could do.

The least one person ought to do for another person.

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