Several months ago as we were walking to the library, we passed some guy who was, apparently, asleep in a doorway. At least, that is what it looked like to me. People sleep in doorways in New York City, right? That’s a thing, right? Nothing to be concerned about? Even in the middle of a weekday afternoon?
The truth is that I wondered if I should do something. But I had two kids with me (this was before Little Miss existed) and my hands, obviously, were full. That’s what everyone always tell me anyway. So we walked on by. And then we got passed by a young man who was talking on his cell phone. I could hear his end of the conversation. He was giving the address of the building where the man was. He had called for help. And, sure enough, there was an ambulance outside the building. EMTs were helping the man into it.
I kicked myself a little for having missed that opportunity to help someone in need. Having seen someone do it, it would have been so easy. Just a quick phone call. But at the time it didn’t seem like my business. It seemed like it could have been dangerous, and I had small children with me. And, in retrospect, those are silly excuses. What if he had really needed my help? Would I really be putting my children in danger by calling for help for a sleeping man on a busy street in the middle of the day?
Lesson learned, right? Hmmmm. I don’t really know. I don’t know that I’ve been tested again. I don’t know if I would recognize it if I had.
So here’s the thing: I worry that I am too quick to say it isn’t my place to intervene and I worry that I’m not setting a good example for my kids. I wonder if they’ll recognize that there are times when it is always appropriate to intervene, when it doesn’t matter if you don’t know those people, or they might laugh at you. I wonder if they’ll realize that there really are things that are worth making serious sacrifices for. I wonder if they’ll have the courage and conviction to stand up for those things.
I wonder, because I’m not at all sure that I do. I mean, I know in my mind that there are things I believe that are extremely important. I know that I should at least ask people if they need help when I think they might need help. But I’m not at all sure how far I would go to defend those beliefs, or to put them into action. It’s kind of a sobering thought, one that I don’t necessarily want to have tested.
More sobering, however, is the thought that my kids will not know what is important, and will not have the courage or the wherewithal to step in and step up and stand up for what is right.
What do you think? Is this something that concerns you? Have you ever stood back when you knew you should have stepped forward?