Haiti and Brooklyn

This post is a picture from Haiti and an anecdote from Brooklyn the next day.

Haiti (click to see the full version)



One billion people live on less than $1.25 per day (Source). More than 150 million people are hurt by taking illegal drugs (source). There are more than 220,000 police-reported rapes per year (source). I have many skills in my analysis and I’ve chosen my selected method of engagement (above) with the world’s problems. In certain situations, I’m less able to transition to how to help an individual person.

I’ve passed by glue-boys in Nakuru, the homeless in New York City, and refused Kenyan friends requests for school fees. I’m uncomfortable with this decision (Jesus: to anyone who asks, give), but I have established a philosophy and pattern that is my current choice for most requests (see here for a few examples).Last night, I struggled to psychologically transition between the two.

Driving in New York City, my friends and I stopped the car as we passed a man laying on the sidewalk. He had a bump to the head and was bleeding from his head, ear, and mouth, as well as having swollen eyes and unseen injuries causing him to roll around on the ground some. He was deeply consussed and delerious. His phone had been stolen, his skull cap was 50 feet away and his hat was 80 feet away.

One friend stopped the car, one friend called 911, and I got out to talk to the man struggling  and lying on the sidewalk (NYPD thanks–both the police and ambulance were extremely quick to arrive).

I’m uncomfortable with how long it took me to engage with him as a person to help and have compassion for. Was he homeless? Drunk? Mentally ill? Was there somethings systematically wrong that I was stepping into with no foreknowledge of him or his context and I let this theoretical difference become a distance-creating fear.

In some ways, all of those questions still stand, and my actions fit, but my attitude was slow. After the initial assessment of the area for danger and the victim for potentially deadly trauma, I should have engaged with him as a person. Even worse, if the driver hadn’t stopped, I doubt I would have spoken up, impinged on my friends time and implied lack of compassion, and overcome the possibility that the problem was structural and impersonal–not acute and close to us. We made the right calls to his loved ones and the police, got his hat, and tried to keep him calm and comfortable, but I could have engaged in a more caring, compassionate, and ultimately calming way.

Next time, I hope to make the transition from seeing another in need from one of the statistics to a person–and have the courage to act on it–faster.


2 Responses to “Haiti and Brooklyn”

  1. Patrick Kelly Says:

    I’d be the same as you. Usually it’s my heart that has to follow my mind, and that slowly. When it comes to acts of mercy, some people are designed with their hands more closely connected to their hearts, so acting is more second nature. But you regardless did the right thing, so thank God for that. Happy birthday by the way 😉

  2. Bob Gleason Says:

    We are not all like the Apostle Paul: impetuous, bold, seemingly fearless. Some are like John: thoughtful, observant. Both serve well. It sounds like you and your friends were the right combination at that time to meet the needs of the injured man. It is a blessing that we serve in community so that no one of us has to embody all of the virtues and qualities required to meet the needs around us.

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