Step In, Step Up

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?

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  1. ” I am too quick to say it isn’t my place to intervene” indeed. I have a strong impulse to pretend nobody else exists, not get involved. This is one of those categories where I can’t quite separate my personality from WISJMD (What I Suspect Jesus Might Do) and both are a bit fuzzy.


  2. There are a few times I really wanted to help someone. A couple times I asked if they needed assistance and they were OK (usually people stopped on the side of the road). But the others that stand out in my mind are men I’ve encountered while alone or alone with my children. And though I’m aching to help, all the horror stories flood through my head. I’ve never had occasion to need to call the police/ambulance for someone, but at those times when I’m alone, I just pray that God will send someone else who can help them if they need it. As much as I regret not being able to help them, I would regret something bad happening to me or my kids more. God knows the intents of our hearts and I think if we are thoughtful about it, and pray for opportunities to teach our children about these things, they’ll appear.
    My friend Jocelyn is great at making opportunities to show her children that they can make a difference. Here’s her blog, you can read about her ideas under the “serve” heading:


  3. We probably all pray (at least at times) to recognize opportunities to be of service – to make a difference. When our children hear those prayers, they come to better know our hearts and similar desires grow in the theirs. I just learned that in Hebrew, ‘desire’ means ‘of the Father’.

    I know I’ve missed many opportunities for service but also feel that if our hearts are right, we’ll know when it’s’ our turn to step up. Maybe the young man who placed the call desperately needed the opportunity to serve that day (and you needed the thought-provoking experience to inspire us with). Thanks!


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