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A Lost Chance at Human Kindness
It Only Takes a Minute or Two to be Kind
Driving down the street on a mild sunny day, I felt a sense of inner peace. I cashed a royalty check from one of my real estate books. I had just freed my car from the auto repair shop, with a new set of front brakes. I didn’t feel like going straight home, so I decided to cruise around and see the sights.
I always enjoy riding around the city. My neighborhood has been in the process of a renaissance. There was a new health center and pharmacy built in the square. New housing, complete with parking and landscaping, was intermingled with affordable apartment buildings, nationally known brand name shops, and mom and pop stores. The city was in a modern revitalization - Boston at its best.
After a long, quiet ride around town, I was close to and ready to go home. I stopped for a red light ahead of my street. There were a couple of cars ahead of me, but I could still see what happened ahead.
A man standing at the bus stop on the corner suddenly fell off the sidewalk. He hit the street face down, and stayed down for a minute. He was an elderly man, wearing a dungaree jacket and jeans, a black cap and a gray and white beard that contrasted well with his dark hue. He kept trying to lift himself up to his knees, but falling time after time.
Waiting at the red light, I was certain the other cars ahead of me would stop to help him out. Unfortunately, as they zoomed past this person laying in the gutter, I realized no one was going to stop. People were in too much of a hurry, or didn’t care enough to be a Good Samaritan. I swirled my car over to the lane near the man, and stopped a few feet away. I turned on my emergency lights and walked toward him.
That’s when I saw his condition. He had blood on his forehead from the fall, and a cut on his hand. A bottle of brown whiskey was broken next to him, and spilled on the street. He was disheveled, his clothes were filthy, his eyes were glazed, and he was clearly intoxicated. His knuckles were bloody; He needed medical attention.
He struggled to lift himself. I tried to give him a hand up by grabbing his arm. His dead weight was more than I could handle. He kept slipping back on the ground. I felt more than a little helpless that I was unable to get him to his feet. Why wouldn’t anyone stop to assist me?
While I struggled to get him off the street, cars came and went by us. A man stopped at a red light across the lane. He rolled down his window and yelled out from the safety of his van. “Lady, don’t touch him!” I just shook my head.
A few minutes later, two women stopped their car in front of me and told me they had called an ambulance. I was grateful because I didn’t have a cell phone. I felt better knowing help would arrive soon. It wasn’t as if I could carry on a conversation with the man. He was too incoherent for me to understand.
A young woman looked at us from around the corner, approached, and asked if I needed help. When I said yes, she stated there was a police car parked down the street at a gas station. She proceeded to go to the gas station diagonal to us, and talked to the officer.
The police officer sauntered over and observed the intoxicated man, who was still trying to get up. The officer was calm as he leaned over and asked, “Have a little bit too much to drink, buddy?” The senior citizen replied, “Yeah, I think so.”
The officer called in for an ambulance. He must have awakened something in the poor soul on the ground. All of a sudden, he was able to lift himself up to a sitting position. The officer told me he would stay with the man until the ambulance arrived. I figured he was safe, and left the scene. From beginning to end, the event took about twenty minutes.
At home, it troubled me that so many people drove by as the drama played out. This happened during Thursday rush hour. There was a lot of traffic, which slowed down as passers-by stared or laughed at us. However, but for the efforts of three women, a police officer and myself, I doubt if this troubled man would have gotten the help he needed.
This was somebody’s son, maybe someone’s father or grandfather. He was alone, caught in an undignified position, and by his looks, possibly had few family or friends who cared for him. Every car that passed him by was a condemnation, a write-off of him as a stumble down drunk. Not worth anyone’s time or attention.
Those of you who passed us by, who laughed rather than helped, who stared rather than see us in distress, can sleep at night. In fact, you probably sleep rather well, thinking you dodged a bullet by staying in your car and not get involved. It is always better to mind your own business, right? That isn’t always true. In this case, all you did was lose a chance at humanity.
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