Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oh, my bleeding heart!

Today I was waiting at the light, ready to turn into the store parking lot. A blind man started crossing the street, tapping his cane from side to side. About halfway through, he turned around, then back again, seeming disoriented. He laughed to himself, started tapping all around him.

He then began to walk out of the crosswalk and into the intersection. I rolled down my window and began calling to him when suddenly, a guy in a t-shirt came darting out of the store. He yelled to the man and when he got to him, he reached out and took his hand.

He talked to him for a second, then he lead the blind man over to the bus stop and sat with him. After a minute, the good samaritan got up and ran back to the store.

And I thought, why didn't I get out of my car? Why did I call from my window?

It's weird lately because I'm going all Angelina Jolie around here. I've been buying baby clothes to donate to the Pregnancy Crisis center and today was the day I was going to drop them off.

But I kept thinking, why didn't I get out of the car?

I felt awful as I drove to the center to drop off the outfits. And when I got to the door, the older lady said, "Sorry. We're closed." I nearly cried.

I said, "Can I just leave these donations?"

Her face brightened. She asked me and my kids to come in, sit down. She was beside herself. She didn't know me, didn't know why I'd want to go buy clothes for strangers. But she was so touched.

Then she looked at my kids and said, "You are lucky. You have a good mom."

My son beamed and nodded while my daughter went about playing with the toys. Then the lady took my hand, like the guy that took the blind man's hand, and she said, "You're an angel."

So as I left with my children, I thought to myself, I may not always get out of the car when I'm supposed to. But I can hope that I'll get out when I need to.



Wyman said...

I see everyone is commenting on this post, so I will join in too. You led me to reread an article in the December 2005 issue of Discover Magazine--no connection to the Discover Channel. It appears Psychology is in the infant stage of trying to figure out why we do good, because they have always taken doing good as the norm in every situation, which seems not to be the case. Yet, why we do good in situations such as your blind man and your clothes delivery fascinates me.

On the blind man, I would guess if your father was blind, a close relative was blind, or anyone you know well enough to be an ingrained part of your life experience(s), then I imagine you would have been quick to shut your car motor off, dashed out of your car, and rescued the blind man from his disorientation. Had it been a child, blind or not, I think you would have been even faster to react. The fact you rolled your window down and hollered at him, shows you tried to do something and understood the situation. Perhaps you assumed hollering was enough. There is the fact people tend to be reluctant to enter another person's personal space, so they hesitate to intervene in a physical way. There is leaving your car unattended, probably a subconscious thought. There is also the fact you are a lady. That is to say there are many things conscious and subconscious that may cause a person to hesitate.

The guy who did react probably knew the blind man or someone in there may have literally told him to go rescue the man, so he was obeying an order from someone. However, I suspect he knew the man or he may have been his customer or a relative.

Also, I think some people are born with and develop personalities that make them take the lead in emergency situations or tend to calculate all the aspects of a given situation, then react in a beneficial way to the situation. For example, an off duty fireman is more likely to rush into a burning house, due to his training and may also decide when the worst thing to do is to rush into a burning house. Most of us would call 911 and hope for the best.

So, I think it depends a lot on training, experiences in our lives, and other factors, which lead us to make both rational and irrational decisions After you saw a better reaction than your own, then you evaluated your reaction by the standard of the better reaction. Hindsight, I think it is called, which is always better informed.

As for the clothes giving thing, I think that comes out of a need to feel compassionate toward others, while realizing how lucky you are. For most people, this is a much easier call to make than the blind man. However, I think this also comes out of experiences from the past and present. Almost every TV station in the country around Thanksgiving and Christmas begin to show and talk about "needy families" and "needy individuals". If nothing else this is less than a subtle message to "do" something yourself. It is not hard to tune your heart to such a message, especially Mothers, I think.

I don't know if I have added much, but it is a fascinating subject. I think most of us have been in such situations. Sometimes we wonder why we did not act; other times when we do act, we later consider all the dangers--like being hit by a car yourself--that we did not consider at that moment. Thanks for something I will be doing much more thinking about. You know, I think this is one reason why writers write. Imagine all the possibilities of a story where people have to make these decisions; sometimes acting socially correct, sometimes not, then having to live with the consequences. Sounds like a good novel, if you ever decide to write it. (Sorry I could not be more brief at the moment. This sure needs a rewrite. ha ha ha)

Robin said...

Oh, Suz, I love this story. And you're right...you got out of the car when you needed to. Because the people at that clinic needed you. You ARE an angel!!!

Happy New Year!

lisanowak said...

I sweat over this sort of thing, too. Some of my friends rave about the things I do, and I think, yeah, but there's all this stuff I should do that I blow off. Then I feel like I'm a terrible person and a poser.

So what makes you a good person? What is most important to do? I think we all have certain passions and those passions lead us to do good in particular areas. And that's fine. We can't give to everyone or do everything. There has to be a limit, or we'd never have time to eat and sleep. So I think it's okay to stick with the things that are most natural and comfortable for us, the things we get the most satisfaction out of, or that cause us the least stress.

Graeme Stone said...


Rena said...

What a great post, Suzanne.