I was walking up the stairs in Vavuniya General Hospital, where a lot of the war survivors are helped. It’s a decent hospital, despite being well over capacity. There are literally a thousand stories in those halls. If you attach you disappear into a well of situations you can’t do anything about, so I don’t. Until. As I was climbing the stairs a young woman came down, clutching the railing. She was dark and disheveled, and her eyes completely not there. She was off balance, stumbling, about to fall. She needed an arm to guide her, but my immediate thoughts were that she was dirty or diseased. I was ashamed, of myself.
Instead, I walked past her and looked down, in vulgar curiosity. She finally stumbled and sat on the stairs, lost in a glaze of pain. A friend later spoke to her and read the prescription the doctor had given. It said she needed rest in a clean, stable environment, with family support. A simple prescription, and wholly impossible for an IDP. Instead she will descend into schizophrenia in a refugee camp. And I won’t help her down the stairs.
Of course, you can’t. There are a hundred thousand similar stories and there’s nothing much you can do for an individual. In fact, you can barely acknowledge them as individuals. That is to look into the abyss, and the abyss looks back (146). I have, and it has. I don’t like what it sees.