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Voices / Letters from readers

Kindness and compassion at the Transportation Center

RE: “Compassion over fear” [Viewpoint, May. 30]:

Many thanks to Liza King for her thoughtful words.

One cold day in January, I was parked across from Experienced Goods, unloading bags of donations from the back seat of my car, when I slipped on the ice. I fell in such a way that I was partly beneath the car.

I’m 71 and somewhat limited in mobility, so it took me some time to crawl out and start to get up. I was pretty much OK, but I had cut my lip, producing a dramatic amount of blood.

As I was righting myself, I heard someone in the group standing in front of the Transportation Center call out, “Oh, my gosh, did that lady just fall?”

Two people, a young man and a young woman, came rushing over. They helped me get up, seated me in my car, found napkins for my cut, and picked up my dropped donations (including broken glass, which they carefully gathered).

They stayed with me until they were convinced that I didn’t need medical assistance and was able to drive home.

In all that time, on a typically busy downtown weekday in Brattleboro, no one else — not one of the “regular” local shoppers and businesspeople passing by — stopped to ask if I was all right, or even appeared to look in my direction.

I don’t know for sure if these two people were homeless or if they were panhandling, though their clothing and appearance seemed to indicate that either was possible. I do know that they were kind and compassionate, and that the fact that I happened to have no cash to offer them did not deter them from being as helpful as possible.

I also know that I’ve personally never felt alarmed or offended by panhandlers in the Harmony Lot or on the downtown streets whether or not I offer them money; the fact that I feel guilty and uncomfortable when I pass them by without contributing seems to me to be my problem, not theirs.

If I do give them a bit of cash, I consider it a gift, which means it’s their business how they choose to use it; if addiction is an issue for them, my withholding that small amount is not likely to change that.

I’ve often thought, as Liza King observes, that no one would choose this life on those brutal winter days if they saw another viable choice.

While we might make our own daily lives seem more pleasant by keeping the consequences of poverty, mental illness, and addiction out of sight, those challenges would still be a part of our community.

Recognizing that the people who are experiencing those challenges are also part of our community benefits us all.

Karen Tyler

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Originally published in The Commons issue #463 (Wednesday, June 13, 2018). This story appeared on page D3.

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