It was a grey weekday afternoon on the Brian Lara Promenade and the usual throng was present. Above the noise of car horns, traffic, and loud animated conversation, a woman’s voice was heard. “Oh gawd, please, somebody call the ambulance please!” She was easy to see from Royal Castle across the street. I was walking fast as I usually do, perhaps faster. It was late. I had taken the morning off to attend my child’s graduation; it was after one and I had to get work done. Work was on my mind.
She was kneeling, hunched over and screaming repeatedly, “Please, somebody call the ambulance!” I put my hand on my purse, uncertain of what I was going to meet as I approached her. Two people were standing next to her looking down. There were other people, most at a distance, watching with detached interest and they were the ones on whom I focused. I myself felt disconnected from what was going on – my own internal monologue preoccupying me; my voice was louder than hers.
I walked past without looking, and only moments after realised what I had done when the pleading finally broke through my self-absorption. I looked back and saw an old man sitting next to her. She had pressed to his head a rag and he was leaning weakly against her. I unzipped my bag pulled out my phone and walked back to her but somebody beat me to it. A man approaching from the other side was already talking to someone on his mobile, “An ole man fall down and bus’ his head. He bleedin’. Yuh need to sen’ an ambulance…”
The watching crowd had grown around them now, and I returned to the office guiltily. Eventually I sat at my desk, opened the laptop and stared blankly at the screen. Why had I not been more present to what was happening? Why had I not, immediately, gone to see what the problem was and whipped out my phone? The answer was simple and uncomfortable. I was too wrapped up in my own little world of woes.
And if that buffered me against such a cry as this, what other little things have I not noticed? And perhaps that’s where the difficulty lies. Our own day-to-day experiences can cocoon our perceptions. It was a lesson keenly felt.
Every morning the conversation is the same.
“Mornin’ mother and smallie.”
“Good morning!” is the reply in unison.
He lives in a humble house with his wife and children, making his living from selling fruit. His wife is infrequently with him, but her greeting is equally warm. Each day there would be the query of how we were as he sat behind the makeshift wooden stall. One day he called me across.
“I does see you but you always looking like if you t’inking hard. Ah does say to myself, ‘But what she t’inking so hard about?’ Anyway, whatever it is, God in control and you mustn’t worry. And yuh have to pray all de time. Anytime de Lord wake me up at night or in de morning, I does pray, yuh know. It could be eleven o’clock or one o’clock. And you mus’ do that, too. Here, I have some nice oranges for you and smallie. Look, some apple…Bless.”
It was the gift of noticing that was the act of kindness. –Simone Delochan