I was walking through town in my new shoes. It was an overcast day but I didn’t care. Heading towards the fountain where I was to meet someone, I saw a woman staggering around. “Drunk,” I thought to myself. I then saw her lying down in the middle of the pavement. “Very drunk.” She was wearing an outfit that would have been fine in a night club, but was somewhat out of place in the sober daylight. Thinking little about her, I looked around for the person I was meeting. As I wandered, waiting, I heard an “Excuse me.”
“Can you help me up?” she asked, and, as I pulled, she said something that only struck me an hour later, throwing me off my tracks: “Thanks, that was just the little bit of strength I needed”. Then, trying to justify her current state, she said, “It’s my birthday!”
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Just needing a “little bit of strength” to get back on our feet again. And should we really have to account for this weakness to a stranger in new shoes? A stranger that happens to be in a better situation? A stranger that is, regardless of shoe condition, a fellow human being?
I felt like a hypocrite. I have been drunk enough to lie on a pavement; drunk enough to need help getting up. It just happens that I wasn’t on that particular day. And yet something made this woman feel like she needed to explain herself to me. Whether it was my appearance or the appearance of the society to which we belong that made her ashamed, I don’t know. But either way it wasn’t pleasant. Where’s the good in helping someone if they feel bad for needing help?