His name was Lorenzo.
I met him just now, on the way to the subway after, ironcially, a meeting about human resources and mental health. Lorenzo started talking to me out of the blue as I stood waiting for the light. Half to himself, he said "it'll be okay" and "man, life doesn't come with a blueprint." Lorenzo walked alone, carrying two plastic grocery bags containing his just-purchased dinner of meat, bread and wine.
I could have said "dude's crazy" and ignored him, like many others did. But he wasn't threatening, just uncomfortably social. At the end of the day, Lorenzo was a human being, just like me. And he clearly needed someone to talk to.
So I listened. I engaged. I did my best to treat him as a human being. Through doing so, I realized that he wasn't saying "it'll be okay" because that's what he felt, but because he needed someone to help him believe that it really would be okay. They weren't at the moment.
I got a hug from Lorenzo - he even called me brother. It turned out he was going to the subway too, so I had a chance to listen more.
Lorenzo was an emotional man; an Italian-Canadian in his mid-thirties, the kind of fella that leads with his heart. He struck me as blinders-on dedicated, likely to take the frequent harshness of life personally and the ills that come his way as a reflection of himself as a person.
Poor Lorenzo had been cheated on. He'd lost his job, largely due to a functional fixedness issue. Now, unemployed and abandoned by the people he felt committed to both professionally and personally, Lorenzo doesn't know who he is any more.
Brother Lorenzo told me his story, his eyes occasionally welling up as he talked about how people lie to each other, how he was punished for committing too much to his job and about how people are animals. "If I throw a piece of meat in front of a lion," Lorenzo said, 'he's going to go for it." It was the same, he said, with a woman and a male sex organ or the reverse - though he may have worded it a bit differently.
Lorenzo tried to live his life by the values he thought were the right ones - his life got swept aside and now he doesn't know what to believe in anymore. He doesn't know what's next, not even who he is supposed to be.
There are a lot of Lorenzos out there, confused and uncertain of what comes next. Human beings that feel like maybe they aren't seen as human beings by others any more; they have a hard time seeing themselves as such.
I told Lorenzo that he's right - it will be okay, in the long run. I told him he's not alone, that there are a lot of people with the same shattered dreams, the same sense of loss and hopelessness that he has. It's not all you, I said, or there wouldn't be so many others in the same boat.
I also told Lorenzo that there are people out there who do care, take the time to understand and who are working to heal this world. I didn't tell Lorenzo about behavioural economics, the Open Government movement, about emerging changes within human resources and education or even hint at the idea that while we are animals, individually, we are collectively becoming much more. I didn't give a lengthy explanation of the values of CBT and emerging tools like WalkAlong.ca that could be helpful to him and others like him.
I did tell Lorenzo that even if he couldn't see hope, it's there, like oxygen. He just had to believe it and have faith that things would change.
Things will change - the revolution has already begun. It might be messy, fragmented and result in half-solutions that will need to be revisted sooner rather than later in competitive fashion, but it doesn't need to be. When we all pull together, we become better adapted to the challenges that surround us.
The story of how we've come together through organization and technology, after all, is the story of our journey to humanity.
I'm glad I stopped and listened to Lorenzo. I hope that he felt better, even if just a bit, from my empathizing with him and giving him some time. He gave me something equally important in return.