This is an off-topic post written at work. Sorry it ain’t too happy.
There is a young guy at the clinic I work for that I come across ever so often on my way to the cafeteria or when meeting clients. He must be around 20 years old although I can’t exactly tell. Like many of the more longtime residents, he likes hanging in the park and talking to random people. Every time I see him, I don’t know quite what to expect. Some days he ignores me, on others he waves at me greeting me like an old acquaintance. On other days he’s raving loudly, so I pass by not saying anything. I know quite a few people who are afraid of him, taking a detour whenever he comes in sight. Some are nervous or just indifferent. That’s not a judgement of any of these reactions as not everyone employed at the clinic is equipped or meant to directly engage with patients. Naturally this is an environment dedicated to their care but that doesn’t mean everybody down to the frontdesk person knows exactly how. For most of the support staff, the patients remain firmly on the other side of daily business. The young man raving in the park is just another voice they’ll hear outside a window.
I guess what makes it different for me in his case, is that I know this young guy was once upon a time somebody’s son and someone’s brother. I know not his name but I know that he was sound of body and mind. He probably obsessed over brands and baggy pants (he still wears giant hiphop attire and bling), hated his teachers and dreamed of a sweetheart somewhere. Until one day a car accident killed his entire family and left him all alone and forlorn in this world. I wonder if he remembers the accident that left him a sole survivor. I wonder if he remembers that he once had parents and siblings. I wonder most, if it matters if he doesn’t.
Now the clinic is his home. The staff that look after him to the best of their ability. The park and the people in it who take a detour whenever he comes in sight. I don’t want to pity him because pity is a patronizing emotion and I have no idea how the world looks like through his two eyes. He may be as happy or unhappy as the next person, there’s no way I could know. Yet I’m still gutted by his story, I can’t help that. I am sad that he will probably never again be in full charge of his own life. But then, am I? Should we even look at different lives in this way, as if there was one preferable way of living?
I don’t know. These are difficult questions.