Last night I got propositioned.
Shortly after 1 a.m. I was walking the 100 meters from the bus stop to my house. I noticed a new Escalade at the corner, and the driver was looking out his window like he was lost or searching for something.
I crossed the road, heading towards my apartment. He was stopped and rolled down his passenger window. I glanced over to see if he needed directions, broke eye contact, and kept walking. I made the mistake of making eye contact again, after all, maybe he really does need directions. He leans over to the window and says, “You want to party?” His accent was thick and middle eastern. The look in his eyes said that he had his own version of partying.
I recognized it for what it was and scoffed, laughing a bit. “No thanks.” I said, and kept walking. He rolled up his window and drove off. Partying? Really? Well, I suppose that’s one way to approach it. But at the end of the day, the guy was a john. As I entered my yard, I finally figured out what I should have done. I should have taken down the Escalades plate, but when I turned to look, he was gone.
I have to admit, that part of me felt sorry for the guy. I just went to a conference on ending sexual exploitation the previous week, and one of the workshops was entitled Why Men Buy. The number one reasons to buy included depression and loneliness. This guy was rich, but it is totally possible that he felt completely alone in the world. He was looking for something to fill the void, and he was looking in the wrong places. That doesn’t make what he was doing right, but it does make me feel sorry for him.
To be fair, I was warned when I moved into the neighbhourhood that it was riddled with drugs, homelessness, and prostitution. I certainly never expected to be propositioned though! My goodness.
Chalk another one up to experience.
But the true underlying issue here is that we live in a culture so focused on autonomy and detached from community that it becomes all too easy to see those around us as just faces and not people. It becomes too easy to take advantage of the other. We are a lonely society, with everyone wearing a mask, pretending that everything is alright. The role of community in immigrant societies and some of the old countries never transferred to North America. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes that same village to keep us going down the proper path. There is accountability, support, and love in community that allows for us to find fulfillment without having to go out and search for it. And when we do go out and search, we can easily lead ourselves down the path of destruction. Just a wrong turn or two, and we start asking ourselves, “How did I wind up here?” And once its got a hold on us, the question becomes, “How do I get out? How do I break the cycle?” The truth of the matter, is you need more than just will power and determination to break a habit, you need support and community. Asking for help at the best of times is humbling. For those of us who get into socially inappropriate trouble, asking for help is like committing social suicide. But what is the alternate option? There isn’t one. Sometimes you need to bite the bullet to get back to where you need to be. Painful? Yes. But healing only comes when pain is acknowledged and steps are taken to make restitution. How can this be done? Through the support of those who know and love you. This is the roll of family, friends, and community. This is where society has failed us. This is where restitution needs to take place. Now is the time to bring healing to a society that for too long has fed us lies. Now is the time. Now.