Alexandra S. was minding her own business in Portland, Oregon when she noticed a man slumped forward on a covered bus stop bench. His head was between his knees and his hands were dangling towards the floor, and he obviously needed help. She dialed 911 immediately but was shocked by the actions of the people walking by.
On the ground near the man’s outstretched arms sat a brown paper bag and a few needles, and it was clear after just a few minutes that people were assuming the man had “brought it on himself.” No one was going to help.
One couple pretentiously chuckled, like “haha, what a classic scene”, and a group of college kids laughed when he suddenly (and quite visibly) peed himself. I wanted to run them down and beat them over the head with their designer shoes. Everyone deserves dignity, especially those who are vulnerable and suffering.” She wrote.
She waited by his side for the ambulance to arrive.
The emergency professionals arrived and admitted that they knew who the man was. His name was Dennis, and they told her that he was a kind man with diabetes, mental illness, and who was battling alcoholism. He wasn’t a drug user or a criminal. The needles had been used to administer insulin – the only thing in the brown paper bag near his feet – and he most likely had been trying to save his own life when his body lost the fight. Dennis died surrounded by people who couldn’t be bothered to help.
He had light-brown skin and a chubby, cherubic face that appeared vaguely in pain and almost peaceful… Like a swaddled infant who fell asleep during a crying fit. His eyes were two tight slits of white peeking lisltlessly through an abysmal backdrop. His hands were blackened with grime and appeared swollen, and his fingernails varied from black n’ blue to purple. He also had a perfectly formed ‘beer belly’ that was tightly cinched into denim ‘dad jeans’, which I immediately found endearing and almost absurd. The more he unfurled, the more human he became… And the more I felt for him.”
She returned the next day with flowers and a note:
Rest easy, Dennis. You were seen.”
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