Letting Off the Brakes of Discomfort

By By Cory Robison

By Cory Robison

For some reason, I was never able to side with the kids who made fun of the fat kid picked last for the basketball team.

Partly because I usually was the fat kid picked last for the basketball team and partly because the other fat kids picked last were often my friends.

I made friends with people who other people didn?t understand.

I have been the instigator and the receiver of hard times in life. With that said, and on the subject of guilt, I wonder why it is that we as people have a hard time seeing things from the point of view of those just lower than where we currently are.

While looking for a job, I thought about the options that lay before me. I was out of work, not starving at first, but I needed to find work fast to maintain my quality of life. Days dragged to weeks and weeks to months.

Blood plasma became $30 a week that flowed through my veins, and panhandling seemed to be as good as any job being offered with the added benefit of being able to work outside. I seriously considered panhandling once. Then I got a job.

Two weeks later, the panhandlers became the “them” of society. So far below me, maybe I?d bless them with a dollar, or maybe I?d withhold it for fear that the dollar would be spent to buy another beer instead of something useful.

This thinking makes me feel guilty.

I became friends with a woman who had seen tragedy. Her younger brother, her closest friend and hero, was driving a stretch of road somewhere between American towns.

The stretch was long, the weather cold and the walk impossible.

This man decided to hitch hike. No one knows what happened for the next three days, but his body was found on the side of the road some 50 miles away from where his car broke down.

His wallet was gone, his car had been stripped of anything that could be sold. Today I drove by someone on the side of the road who needed help. Perhaps I couldn?t help?as I am no auto mechanic.

But I felt a sharp twinge in my gut as I saw him disappear into the night in my rear-view mirror.

My car is a microcosm, it?s my little world. The discomfort of letting someone in my car for a ride beat out the feelings of humanity that begged me to stop and ask if I could help.

Maybe he was not truly in need of help, perhaps he would have gotten in my car with the intention of killing me and using my corpse as an end-table at his hunting lodge?after all I did see “Silence of the Lambs,” therefore I know what happens every time you pick a stranger up who appears to be in need of assistance.

Or maybe, in the real world, he was just a normal guy with a normal wife and normal kids who?d like to know that their dad had been driven to a gas station so he could call home and let them know he was alright.

In reality, I notice more and more that I refuse to do things I feel I should do because I am afraid.

I am afraid of the homeless, afraid of the needy, afraid of standing up for those who need someone to stand up and say something for them.

I would never say anything in junior high when a kid I knew, and maybe even liked, was getting his underwear stretched over his head by the wrestling team.

I sat silently not because of any bodily fear, but because of what people would say if I helped a dork out.

Perhaps it just took me longer than most to realize that we?re all just dorks?just human dorks.

The finger has been pointed at myself in this article, because I am the only person I can control.

In truth, everybody can relate to the things that I feel guilty about. Everyone has a moment they should have stood up, should have stopped to let someone in. Perhaps fear of discomfort grips our entire nation.

I wonder if everyone feels the same twinge I do as they too drive by a woman changing a tire by herself on the side of the freeway in a miniskirt. That twinge kicks me in the ribs and tells me that every time I drive by I am the person I hate.

Back to being the fat kid picked last for basketball. I feel like that same insecure kid every time I need help from someone. I?m in college, which pretty much means that my car has to break down every day.

Sometimes going full speed on the freeway, the thing will just stop. Last time it stalled on State Street in the middle of morning traffic.

I got out and began to push the behemoth up a hill toward a gas station. People drove around me, most seemed intent on not hitting me?for which I was grateful?but for a few minutes, no one would stop their day to help me push.

I felt enlightened. I was angry, but I felt I deserved to push the thing myself. Of course, someone stopped and helped push?that person was my hero.

I thought, “How often do you really get to be a hero nowadays?” I think I?ll start today.

We have evidence of heroism far away in the East. We could have it in our own town and not have to endure tragedy to see it.

Cory welcomes feedback at [email protected] or send letters to the editor to: [email protected].