Facing the monsters in the closet

June 8, 2010
Whether someone is wearing a prim suit or a collection of rags, a person is a person. Yet when a homeless man in New York City was stabbed to death when trying to help a woman being mugged, over 20 people walked past and left him there to die. None of those people called the police.
Many push the blame on these New Yorker passersby, as if they were simply a bunch of heartless city slickers. That may be true, but I doubt it’s the root of the issue. The sad truth is that people avoid uncomfortable things. We all avert our eyes from pitiful panhandlers on the street and shy away from subjects that cause bristling and squirming. Not that we should pick fights, of course. But there’s a fine line between pacifism and avoidance. Bad things don’t go away simply because you ignore them. In fact, uncomfortable topics and problems tend to stick around and nag at people. No matter how much those New Yorkers tried to pretend the grisly scene wasn’t there, a man still lie bleeding on the ground. Skirted topics and problems can become corpses too.
The chances of stumbling upon a dying victim in my safely suburban hometown of Leawood are pretty slim, thankfully. But the attitude of avoidance is a familiar figure, especially in affluent areas. We like to think that we can avoid yucky things and they’ll just disappear, cured by the magical properties of “the bubble.” Things shoved under the bed only gather ghastly mold, though. As unpleasant as it may be, we have to face problems head-on. That doesn't mean putting up arms. It simply means calmly and rationally addressing problems, discussing concerns, and—most importantly— remaining open to solutions. The only way to beat the monsters in the closet is to drag them into the open.

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