It never ceases to amaze me when a person chooses to nonobserve another human, place, thing, or social norm. I marvel at the level of depravity that must be the source of such an act of hostility.

To nonobserve is to deny one’s very existence; to ignore the essence of humanity.

There are examples of this social phenomena all around. From someone not acknowledging a Good Samaritan holding the door for them, to dismissing the history of victimization of poor and marginalized folk all over the globe. I too have chosen to nonobserve from time to time.

There was an instance when an individual who was down on their luck came into my vicinity on the sidewalk whilst I was loading my son into his car seat. He must have seen my facial expression change because he almost didn’t ask me for something to help him get through the day. Realizing my non-verbally communicated disgust, I was so ashamed that I barely looked him in the eye as I tersely declined to assist. It seemed the easier solution: get ride of the nuisance.

As we drove off Kay-Kay, who was probably three at the time, asked “Daddy. What did that man want?” I barely could answer. To him it was obvious. This person needed help. Why didn’t you help him?

I thought a lot about that interaction. Why did I react the way I did. It wasn’t even a reaction; it was more a reflex. I didn’t even think, “Get rid of this beggar.” It was my body’s natural defense mechanism, like when skunk sprays once it senses danger.

I had nonobserved. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to deal with someone I’ve been conditioned to view as not worth acknowledging. The problem with this is that in the process, I’d lost sight of the damage this mindset had inflicted on myself. To deny the humanity or existence of another is to diminish my own; it is the way the universe works. Whether we agree or not, all things are connected and interlinked. It is the reason a society which is numb doesn’t shudder when increasingly hostile overtures are made towards its own (more often children, the poor, and other marginalized people).

That day, I decided no more. I would observe all.

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