By: Nicole Capo
Think you know your parent or spouse or child well enough to recognize them no matter what situation they find themselves in? What if they were homeless? Odds are, you wouldn’t.
A social experiment put forward by New York City Rescue Mission found some unsettling truths: Namely, that homeless people are totally invisible to the people who walk past them every day, even when those people are their own loved ones.
Creative agency Silver + Partners, along with production company Smuggler and director Jun Diaz teamed up with New York City Rescue Mission to recruit and film several people who were dressed up to look like they were homeless. They then took those peoples’ loved ones and had them walk past on the way to an interview. Not a single one of those people noticed that their spouses, siblings, cousins, aunts, or uncles were the homeless folks they passed by on the sidewalk. Hardly any of them even took a second to look at the people they were walking past.
In this age of technological addiction, it’s no surprise that we’ve stopped noticing what’s going on around us. It’s hard enough taking our eyes away from our ever-present screens long enough to make sure we don’t wind up in the hospital, let alone to stop, smell the roses, and even notice there are roses there in the first place. Find it difficult to make eye contact with other people? You can blame your much-loved cell phone for that. And it’s not just the technology that’s distracting us, either — bustling city life has increased our walking speed over the last decade. It’s only fitting that we’ve become too busy in our fast-paced lifestyles to pay attention to anything we deem unimportant, even if that “unimportant” thing happens to be another human being.
Which is why New York City Rescue Mission’s experiment is so important. The fact that we have become so accustomed to ignoring people living on the street and our subsequent lack of empathy for them are the symptoms of a much more troubling disease: Our rapidly declining ability to interact with other human beings. If we can’t find it in us to take a second to notice those who so clearly need our help, what does it say about the kind of people we are turning into? The people who unsuspectingly participated in the experiment definitely experienced a moment of hesitation about their own choices — you can see how emotional they get when facing the truth in the video, below.
And if you’re starting to feel down on yourself for ignoring hundreds of homeless folks on a daily basis, feel free to refuel your Karma jar by donating to New York City Rescue Mission here, and then treat yourself to a smile or two, right here.
[Pic cropped from original via Flickr - BuzzFarmers]