Thursday, May 24, 2012

Living on the margins

Shanghai, China
May 2012

About these photos: Thematic is exploring "far from home" this week, and you can, too, by clicking here. We promise you'll enjoy the ride.
I never presume to know all there is to know about a given person's situation. I would never judge, either. As a journalist, my role is to simply observe and share the facts as clearly as I possibly can. The members of my audience are always intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions.

That doesn't mean I'm not affected by what I see. And everywhere in this crazy-busy place, I see people living on the margins of society. They clean the steps of public buildings, panhandle in the street for whatever scraps they can find, or, in this case, scour garbage bins for recyclable materials. And my heart hurts a little bit every time I see them. I silently hope they find what they're looking for, hope they find a way to keep on keeping on, to survive in this place that seems content to ignore their very existence.

This particular lady was looking through a bin outside one of the top hotels in the city. At one point as I tried to capture the unfolding scene, she looked up at me and briefly caught my eye. I wondered if my observing her was upsetting in any way, and hoped it wasn't. I didn't have long to ponder that thought, however, as soon enough a suit-clad, walkie talkie-carrying concierge emerged and shooed her away, staring at me with particular suspicion, likely pegging me as yet another know-it-all tourist with no appreciation of the subtleties of life here.

He was probably right: I don't have a clue how so many in this apparent emerging land of plenty can apparently be pushed to the margins. I wish I understood more of the dynamics that make this country tick. I quietly think that perhaps if I got under the covers here, I'd learn more about life back home, too.

As she dejectedly wheeled her bag-laden bike into an uncertain future, I realized my heart still hurt a little.

Your turn: What do you learn when you're far from home?


Tabor said...

I think we see even more of those who live on the edge and with the documentaries and the Internet we have a better understanding of this struggle and that is why it is so painful. We can do so little and we wish we could do more.

-K- said...

I haven't been far from home for quite some time but I have similiar experiences here in LA where I *try* to not judge people and situations.

But I do it all the time...

mmp said...

......more about myself.

(I should get out more!)