The forgotten people next door

There are often ‘forgotten’ people who when their health takes a turn for the worse frequently have no one to turn to.

By Lefteris Charalambopoulos

I do not know how much attention was paid to the news item, but it certainly captured my attention.

An elderly couple was found dead in their apartment in the Athens suburb of Kallithea. Authorities have said the deaths were not likely caused by a criminal act but rather from heatstroke as there was no air conditioner or even fan [and there was a heat-wave in Athens last week].

It is not the first time we learn of the loss of our fellow human beings with delay.

There are often “forgotten” people who when their health takes a turn for the worse frequently have no one to go to.

Sometimes we discover the presence of these people when we come across an obituary or when we see relatives of the deceased emptying the apartment where they lived.

At that point we wonder about the fact – often with a sense of shame – that in that apartment, behind that door which we walked by every day, there lived a human being and we never considered whether he or she were in need.

That is indeed a sorrowful thought.

It is a painful reminder that, even as we speak about massive societies with multiple, interconnected networks that provide digital technology, true human contact, communication, and care are receding.

I fear that the situation will worsen as family ties, which for years in Greece served as a substitute for the social state and social welfare structures, become looser.

Still, we cannot and should not reconcile ourselves to this situation.

Our humanity is never judged by how we treat ourselves.

It is reflected by how we care about others and whether we manage not to leave a single person forgotten.

One should not think that much is needed – just a knock on the door to ask if the neighbours need something, a few words to confirm that they are well, and showing concern about whether they have had a mishap.

Solidarity is a weighty word which is always reflected in simple things that are up to us to do and which make us feel truly human.

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