A student of mine moved from rural Georgia to the Tenderloin. He got off the plane, hopped on BART, shook hands with the BART attendant with a big southern, “thank you sir” handshake. This was his first time in a big city. He arose from the escalators at Powell BART to the sun bending past sky scrapers. The succulent trees seemed to hug to the iconic cable cars. Tourists laughed. Wow, he silently mouthed.
Then he walked 2 blocks into the Tenderloin. Shit on the streets. Needles. Shooting eyes that begged for relief.
He fell into desperation. His church-going heart broke. In distress, he moved into the nearest corner store. He spent most of his cash (of which he had little) on water bottles and Nature Valley bars. He gave them to everybody down the block.
He left helpless. Desperate. Urgent.
Most of us do not have the desperation of someone seeing our city’s problem for the first time.
We’ve become numb.