Detroit and Me

February 11, 2017

Zooming down the bustling streets on a Friday evening reveal dazzling lights pulsing brightly from roofs of casinos and shining from grand marquees of theatres. Great roars of diehard spectators would sound from the interiors of the fortresses that are sports stadiums, mighty and proud for all to hear. Vast billboards loom over everything, showing off the newest motor vehicles--each specimen in pristine condition. Alas, this is the great mask at work.

When you take a good look around, many otherwise invisible sights may become visible. You might see ragged bodies gathered together on steps of crumbling buildings sporting plastic bags and shopping carts containing their meager belongings. You might even notice the guy on the corner who is gripping a sheet of cardboard  with the scribbled words ¨help me¨ or ¨homeless veteran¨.  The determined faces of workers at greasy coney islands or nondescript liquor shops may also become visible, but that's highly unlikely because we're told to stay away from such perilous places.

¨You could be shot,¨ they say.
¨Those parts are dangerous!¨
¨Stay away from there!¨

However,  in the places that stray away from downtown's hustle and bustle, the widespread destitution comes into view. Dilapidated houses house hungry, hopeless squatters. Just streets away, families of huge proportions barely get by with meager minimum wage. Some are forlorn, fatherless, and fearful. Drugs, death, and danger are faced daily as gangs roam gleefully in all their grandeur. Schools stand crumbling and cut-rate, caused by low collateral.

This is what you don't see; ¨Why?¨ you might say.
¨You could be shot.¨
¨Those parts are dangerous!¨
¨Stay away from there!¨

I was not born into such poverty. Where some see homes beyond saving, I see spacious subdivisions full of welcoming foyers. Bellies are always content, never longing to be filled. In my town, items are purchased purely for pleasure, not for dire need. In fact, frequently I journey into the shiny metropolis to experience the serene sounds of operas and musicals, and grace the dance floor at prestigious social functions. My eyes have observed the waltzing of zambonis, soaring leaps of baseballs, skillful jigs of basketballs, and the prancing of players across vibrant green turf.

The truth is, I am one of the vast clique who only sees the surface of this giant asphalt jungle. I am drawn to the superficial attractions that please the whims and wishes of the fortunate; the lavish stages, stadiums, and skyscrapers. Even if we did look into the grimy depths, us ignorant ones would never understand what it means to struggle. We will never relate to the revolving poverty cycle, or ravenous, raging hunger. Safety has always been a given to us, so anything otherwise would be unthinkable. To us, murder and menacing gangs are far from a regular commodity.

Without the truths of hardship in our experience, we need to seek out an understanding of them. We can make a difference, but only if we look beyond the mainstream commercial sights. When this happens, the blinders of ignorance will be lifted to reveal the dire need around us. So, next time you find yourself under the city's hazy lights, observe the broken buildings and people around you. Give the hungry man on the corner a sandwich. Smile at the resident of the church steps. If you don't, how will you ever make a difference?

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