My test moment. Out of a possible 10, I give myself a 7.
A week ago a saw this video on Upworthy:
I watched and was deeply saddened, but also honest, I had no idea if I would have been the person ignoring the bum…since I see many such people every day riding the bus system in my town. It bothered me to realize that I sometimes judge a book by its cover. As a voracious reader, I should have learned my lesson.
Well, lessons come in all shapes and sizes. Mine came in the form of a man I have seen many times at the various bus stops. He is often seen with friends, has the appearance of a bum, and is usually drunk out of his mind. He generally drinks Gin straight from the bottle (an amount that mere mortals cannot ingest without serious complications attesting to the fact that he drinks quite often and possibly for many years.)
Seems, this particular evening (about 10 pm) he decided he was going to cross the street and be on his way. Only, that is not what happened. What happened, is that he tripped attempting to cross the street, and fell into the first lane of traffic. I think he must have passed out mid-fall, because he fell like a ragdoll and never even put his hands out. He fell bonelessly and did not appear to be injured. What he did next alarmed me. He turned onto his side and decided that this (the middle of the street) would make a suitable place to take a nap.
Now imagine my expression. I was alarmed,slightly disgusted, and very very concerned. I jumped up and quickly put my hands out to stop oncoming traffic. I cannot say I did this calmly, cause, that would be a big fat lie. The truth is, I was scared the cars were gonna hit me and had a voice in my head yelling her freaking head off about how this man was gonna get my ass killed.
I walked over to him and tried to be firm. Experience with drunk people is something I have a bit of in excess (that is a tale for another time) I told him he could not sleep here and to please get up. I lent him my arm and hoped he would take it. He looked at me with blurred vision and asked me to call 911. I worried he had actually hurt himself, though it had not looked as if he had. “What do I know?”, I thought, so I hollered for help asking someone to call an ambulance.
As this was happening, I was really scared a car would come and not see me standing there. Luckily for me, a car stopped, a woman got out, she said she was a nurse and not to move the man. I was relieved and stepped back to give her room. I explained that I was just scared he would get run over. She smiled and said they would block the way with their car and proceeded to talk to the man in a kind and gentle manner. She said she had already called an amblulance.
She was kind of amazing. Compared to my approach she was an angel. She asked him his name, got down on his level and treated him like a person. I did not have time to learn if I would have done the same, and I am ashamed to admit I might not have, not because of who he was, but because of my past experiences. Realizing this later upset me internally. My past was interfering with my ability to see this man as a flawed but still valid human being. Lesson #1.
Some men came in a car and blocked the rest of the lane so the woman’s male friend/husband? Could move his car out of the second lane. They pulled their car to the back of the lane we were in and allowed cars to get by in the second lane, but protect the man lying on the ground in the 1st lane. They put on their flashers. An ambulance came, and the police. Never once did anyone make jokes about his drinking, his clothes or his lifestyle. They all saw him as a person, wanted to help him, and tried to reassure him that they were not judging him and not to feel ashamed, as he clearly looked very embarrassed. Lesson #2.
They helped him into the ambulance. They did not leave until he was going to the hospital and was in safe hands. They did not complain about needing to get home, or being inconvenienced. They simply stopped the world for the time it took to help the man be ok. It humbled me. I am always talking about my town and the way it has gotten poorer and less caring, and yet, this is the third time this week I have experienced the people in my town going above and beyond to be kind and help someone despite delay, inconvenience, and lost time. Iknow there are not always such kind people in the world, but there are perhaps more than we give credit for there being. Lesson #3.
I have the answer to my inner question about that Upworthy video. I would have stopped. I would have helped, but to be honest, I might not have been kind about it. I might not have been human about it..and that is something to work on. So, I can say I am glad to know I would have stopped to help that man, even if he wasn’t in a suit and tie, but I still have lessons to learn. Perhaps that man helped me, in the end, more than I helped him.