On Tuesday a friend and coworker will be leaving Japan and heading back home to Chicago. We’ve known each other for about three years, and had many discussions about matters large and small, eaten sushi many times, done crossword puzzles, been to karaoke more times than I can count, and climbed Mt Fuji.
There are many things that I will remember, not the least of which were his truly memorable karaoke performances. The highlights were definitely “Beat It”, “Baby Got Back”, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The stage presence, air guitar, and passion he sings with are really something else.
But these are not the things that I will remember most about him. Back in 2008, I was doing okay. My depression was under control, I had a girlfriend, work was going well, and I was enjoying life somewhat. I had just turned 30 and was relatively content.
Another coworker, however, was not enjoying life at all. She had a variety of personal and relationship problems, and was most likely suffering from a mental illness. She was a bit difficult to deal with, and most people, myself included, tended to give her the cold shoulder.
At the time, I didn’t think much of it. To the extent that I did, I basically thought of her as a basket case and wrote her off, hoping to minimize my contact with her, which I did quite effectively.
My friend from Chicago, however, was different. He tried to help, tried to listen, even offered her a place to stay when it seemed like she might lose her accommodation unexpectedly. I thought all of this was a bad idea and advised him against it. In the end, our troubled coworker wound up leaving. I’m not sure what happened to her.
It was not until later, when my own troubles multiplied, that I appreciated what he had tried to do for her. Everyone wants to be a good person, but when it comes right down to it, we tend to look out for number one. I, and the vast majority of others ignored the woman who was in trouble, not wanting to get sucked into her problems. To use the biblical parable, we “walked by on the other side”.
There was only one good Samaritan around in 2008, and it definitely wasn’t me. I’ll never forget that. And I’ll never forget the man from Chicago who did his best to help a troubled soul. Bon voyage man. I wish you all the best for the future.