Unable to understand what has happened to humanity, I am writing this post with a heavy heart. What is it that has caused our world to change? What has influenced us to grow numb to those around us? Where is the love? In this article, I will try to address those questions and offer my own perspective.
The impetus for this article is the death of my good friend who we will simply call Big Man. A Liberian man living in Vietnam and looking out for the African community here, his willingness to help others made an immediate impression on me and we became good friends. Due to his muscular size, he was known as Big Man around town. Everyone considered him the protector. If someone was in trouble, he would be there.
Let me back up and tell you how we met. Three years ago, I was writing while having a beer at a local bar. It was late in the evening and most of the customers were enjoying adult beverages while listening to music. I have mentioned before that I enjoy writing with the white noise of people surrounding me. This night was no different.
The bar, located down an alleyway in the backpacker district of Saigon, offered cheap drinks and self-serve music. From your phone or a tablet, you could select any music video you wanted to hear and watch.
Immersed in my writing, I didn’t pay much attention when a large Liberian man walked into the bar. As the night went on, I did notice that he was pounding drinks and ordering more for the girls in the bar. It is not uncommon for a man in a place like this to want to impress by flaunting money. I ignored it all and kept writing on my laptop.
When the man got up to leave, I noticed the bar owner running out after him. She was demanding that he pay his bill. He flipped her off and walked down the alley. I asked her how much he owed; it was the equivalent of about fifty dollars. To a Vietnamese bar owner, that’s a significant sum.
Outraged by his audacity and disrespect, I put my laptop in my backpack and went after him. Considering some of the things that can happen here, it was a stupid idea, but I was determined to get him to pay or die trying. I’m stubborn like that.
I found him at the end of the alley where it meets the street, a local hang-out area for African tourists. He was standing with four other men when I walked up. I was alone.
When I confronted him about his bill, he was too drunk to understand, but one of his friends stepped up.
“What happened:” Big Man asked.
At that time, I had no idea who this muscular young man was, but I told him the details. When he informed me that his friend had no cash on him, I put my arm around Big Man’s burly shoulders and led him toward the bar saying, “If he’s not going to pay, then you’re going to pay.”
Without question, Big Man could have knocked me out right there, but he didn’t resist. When we got to the bar, he paid his friend’s tab. The episode resulted in the mutual respect that led to a long-lasting friendship.
Last week, Big Man, at just 37, passed away from a heart attack in his sleep. This is a man who looked out for his friends, went to church every Sunday morning, and was trying to make a better life for himself. He was strong and healthy and driven to do more with his life.
We remained close friends for almost three years before his passing. Last year, he found a Vietnamese girlfriend. Things were looking up. He was considering starting a security business with his friends to help protect local clubs. Whenever I was in need (and there were more than a few times), he was only a text message away.
One day when I was at a local cafe, a drunk tourist tried to attack me. When I dodged the blow, he went after the owner. I texted 911 to Big Man with my location. He was there in less than two minutes. As soon as the drunk saw him, he ran off. That’s the kind of man he was.
When Big Man passed last week, his girlfriend set up a memorial with flowers and a framed photo hoping to get donations to aid her in dealing with his remains. Sorely disappointed by the small donations listed in the sign-in book, I went around to all the places we had frequented asking for support. A few were more than willing and very generous. Several refused any support saying that they had a business to run. Overall, it was a pretty sad showing.
Thinking ahead, Big Man had shared his wishes with his girlfriend. If anything should happen to him while in Vietnam, he wanted to be cremated and sent home to his family. It seemed a reasonable request.
Not feeling well, he went to sleep at 2 o’clock in the afternoon last week and never woke up. You would expect this story to end with his body being cremated and sent home, but that’s not what happened. Currently, my friend is in the morgue of a hospital waiting for someone to put him at rest.
In Vietnam, the cremation process costs about $750. We raised about a third of that from friends. His girlfriend and I fully expected his family to cover the rest. When contacted, they said they had no money and to just leave him where he was. We are talking about mother, father, brothers, and sisters. Leave him be… We can’t be bothered!
Is this what we have become? Are we so caught up in our own lives that the lives of our family and friends mean nothing? If so, then shame on all of us!
My friend is only one example of the desensitization of humanity. We see it every single day. A homeless person begging for money gets ignored on the street. We turn a blind eye to a child who is obviously being abused. When someone is in trouble, we walk away.
Please, if you see something, say something. If someone is in need, please try to help if you can. When someone is in trouble, do whatever you can to get them out of harm’s way. Please tell me that heroes still exist. I refuse to believe that humanity has sunk so low and that we are so self-centered that we no longer care about those around us.
Friends, where is the love?