I need to be kinder
Max Ehrmann said, "Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence." I did that, had a long cry, and here are my thoughts.
Journalism is a profession I have every respect for - for lots of reasons. I love the skill and talent it takes to gain an interviewee's trust and ferret out a story. I respect the tactical thinking it takes to ask the right questions to get to the truth. I love it when a story evokes emotions strong enough to cause tears or anger or real laughter out loud.
A while back, I stumbled upon a very sad 15-minute video shot by a journalist who calls herself Mermaid. It was a video of Bobby Fray, once lead TVJ sports journalist, living on the streets of downtown Kingston. He was still dressed in the sports coat of his glory days and sitting on a kerb in the dead of night. These 15 minutes of footage got me thinking and crying.
- I don't like the way the 'journalist' handled Mr Fray. Dignity and respect should be given to every subject. Your job is not to rush your interviewee. Sure, you have an objective, and OK, your time may have been limited; but tact is never to be compromised. Do two takes; come back when you have more tape; cut out the everlasting bio of yourself; just don't rush the man. Let him share his life at his pace. That's a critical part of the journalistic dance.
"Listen to others - even the dull and ignorant. They, too, have their story."
- I ask the question, "How many Bobby Frays are out there, and who is looking after them?" I believe that we all have a responsibility to care. Since the interview, many helping hands have reached out to Bobby and he is now safe and happy and cared for. But what of other average Jamaicans? How are we helping them?
I say that with the huge weight of guilt on my own shoulders. What have I done to help, not necessarily Bobby, but those before him with no golden voice and no chance of 15 minutes of fame?
- In the midst of crisis, at perhaps the lowest point in his life, even when he wasn't quite lucid, Bobby remembered a gesture of kindness from Mr Lascelles Chin. Kindness has a way of doing that. Of living forever. And little acts of kindness performed by ordinary people can truly cause extraordinary changes in the lives of others.
I drove in from Ocho Rios on the weekend on a Knutsford and from that vantage point on the bus, higher than I usually am, with no need to pay attention to the road, I saw my country differently. I saw homeless people, perhaps for the first time as people first. I wondered where their families were, how they ate, where they used the bathroom, how safe they were at night.
Every life is important. And we treat the homeless less as people and more as inconvenient eyesores. And in that moment I was ashamed. Ashamed for every time I rolled up my window and pretended they weren't there. Ashamed for every time I made the assumption that drugs got him on the corner.
Ashamed for every day I wished the police would just scrape them off the streets, not considering where they would take them to, the insensitivity of my wish, or how temporary the solution would be. Out of sight, out of mind.
With all that I have said, this hurtful interview has inspired me to tell people's stories. I don't know how I will, or when I will. But I will do it - and strive to do it right.
It has also inspired me to do more good. To be kinder and more companionable because life is fragile, fame fleeting, and we should all be our brother's keeper.