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Sympathy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I am dodging raindrops as I rush to my car on a crisp September afternoon. Shivering, I quickly take out my keys and hop into the driver's seat in one rapid motion. I turn the ignition and flip the heat on high, rubbing my hands together for warmth. Though I often complain how my vehicle is a piece of junk, on these cold days, I am grateful for the transportation. Driving home, I listen to Natalie Merchant belt out her lyrics about how these are the days that we'll remember forever.

I am humming along when I drive by an elderly man hitchhiking. My mother's voice rings in my head, "Don't you know hitchhiking is dangerous?" I focus on his face as time stands still. I pass him and without a second thought, my head jerks around to take one last look. I realize I know the man.

One year ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying the company of a few friends and sipping a mochaccino, when a man walked in, sat down in the center, and took out a violin. He warmed up with a few chords and proceeded to play some classic songs. I had never heard a violinist in person and his music swept me away. His fingers moved fast as the notes hung in the air, and I watched in awe.

I saw that man only once after that, standing on the road, hitchhiking. It was about a month ago when the sun was warm and the day was new. My boyfriend made a comment that shocked me. He said that that man was homeless. I thought to myself, How could a man with such talent be homeless? If we lived in the fifteenth century, this man would be performing for kings and queens. Instead, his talent goes unacknowledged and he goes hungry. After that, I never thought about him. Until today, when I was enjoying the luxury of a warm car and that man, my elder, was not.

I drove by him thinking how could it be that we live in the United States of America, the Land of the Free, and there are men, women, and children who have no home, no job, and no food. I think how I would love to stop and give him a ride, but for my own safety, I did not. There are so many people out there who have no sense of morals or humanity. Because of them, I drove by a potentially harmless man who was freezing, and I did not do a thing about it.

How wonderful it would be not to have evil lurking around every corner, fear not sneaking up on me, keeping me on guard at all times. When I see a situation like this, it is difficult to ignore my immediate reaction to help. But because there are so many dangers waiting, I have to force my heart to shrink smaller and smaller so circumstances like these don't hurt as much. I hate the idea of closing my feelings. I'm afraid that one day I'll wake up and nothing will affect me. I will have built up a tolerance for all the crime, hate, sickness, and above all, inhumanity. Right now, daily occurrences still shock me. Some days I am hit hard with the realization of world problems. Then other days, I don't feel strongly about anything. I put myself in a frame of mind where nothing can touch or bother me. I can't do anything about the millions of people starving, so why should I think about it?

But that's not me. That is society talking. That is the years of witnessing violence on TV. I know that every little bit counts.

I know that I may not make a major difference in problems, but I know I can try. As much as it hurts to see a man I know walking down the street, hungry and wet, it would hurt a lot more if I didn't feel anything. ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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