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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Helping others

On the bus today, I held the back door open for a women who, when she exited, said, "tell the bus driver to call 9-11 for the boy in the back." When I asked what was wrong, she said, "Just look at him; you'll see."

Another girl who was huddled in the stairwell with me overheard, and we peered through the crowded bus to a young man who was rocking in his seat, looking unwell. In my observations, he looked tired and drunk, or coming down off something. But in my opinion, not in need of an ambulance.

But who am I to judge? Isn't it better to be safe than sorry? This prompted a discussion between the girl and I, who told me she was a med student at the same hospital where I interned. I suppose between a social worker and a doctor, you've got the two people most likely to intervene on another's behalf, but we didn't. We watched him for a little while, then fell to discussing the weather, and Chicago traffic. By the time I exited the bus, he was the last thing on my mind, and I forgot to say anything to the driver.

But obviously I didn't completely forget, and I'm still mulling over how far you should go to help another person. I feel like I'm fairly good in crisis, and had this been one, my instincts would have taken over and I would have known what to do. But it didn't seem very much of a crisis.

Tim and I were driving home from a party last weekend late, and a woman who was obviously developmentally delayed walked through the cross walk in front of us. She was walking stiffly and awkwardly, but it seemed more like her personal gait rather than any recent incident. A guy on a bike came slowly rolling up next to her, and I could read his lips as he asked her if she was ok. She ignored him and kept walking. He pedaled slowly next to her, and continued talking to her. It didn't seem to me like he was being solicitious in his remarks, but rather bothersome. Then the light changed, and we drove off. I turned and looked out the window after them.

Tim could tell what I was thinking. "I think she could take him," he said. And maybe she could have. He was a scrawny little dude. But I still worried. What if we had driven off right before he attacked her? What if we had stopped? What would I have said? What would we have done?

It's so hard to know.

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