As the father of two boys, I have lamented the decline of civil society here before, including the lack of men behaving as men, lack of manners being taught to children, and the increasing willingness of men and women alike to leach off of others.
These are all big issues, and admittedly I have no idea how to combat them on a big scale.
However, the story I have today is just a tiny tale, a mere vignette. And maybe if it says anything, it’s that you or I don’t need to combat these issues on a ‘big’ scale, if ALL of us combat them on a small one.
On Saturday, I’d left the local shopping mall and was now in my car at the end of a lengthy line, waiting for the traffic light to change. Once the signal finally turned green, I noticed that my lane was hardly moving at all.
After a second, a third, and then a fourth cycle of the traffic light, I finally made it down close enough to see what the problem was: a car (containing a mother with her three kids) was stopped in my lane with her hazard lights on.
Time and again I watched one car and then another wait for an opening and then swing around her. Some folks even honked at her in frustration.
Naturally, I assumed that she had probably already called AAA, or a local wrecker, or maybe even 9-1-1… but I couldn’t be sure. What if her cellphone had died, or what if she had no one to call? Which is why I pulled up behind her, parked, popped my own hazards on, and went to see if I could help.
And what she said stunned me: she’d been there, stuck, for almost forty-five minutes, and I was the first person to stop and offer assistance.
45 minutes?!? I couldn’t believe it. Heck, I STILL can’t believe it.
That means that hundreds of cars (at the very least) passed by without offering to help her.
What does that say about us as adults? And for the parents out there, what sort of example did that set for the kids?
Now let’s set the stage a bit here: this was the middle of a Saturday afternoon. Beautiful weather, sunny, and warm. Plus, it’s a very safe neighborhood. Which is why I was so incredulous: a woman and her children OBVIOUSLY are in need of help, yet no one stops? No one (and call me sexist if you wish, but I’m primarily talking to the guys here) offered to at least push her out of the traffic into a parking lot? Maybe see if they can jump-start the car?
For the better part of an hour?
What’s happened to us?
Guys used to stand when a lady entered the room. We used to walk on the outside of the sidewalk, and hold chairs and car doors for ladies.
And now we won’t even stop and offer to help a mother with three kids, in the middle of the day?
Whose fault is this? Is it the coarsening of our society? Are we just too overwhelmed by our lives to care about the misfortune of others? Is this a sign of some national failing in human decency? Are we now so focused on our own lives that we literally don’t notice others when/if they happen to be in need?
I have no clue.
But I do know this: in a civilized world, when someone is in trouble, we’re supposed to help if we possibly can. And being the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that I am, I believe it to be doubly the case when it’s a woman in trouble.
So I’ll continue to teach my boys that while we all need help from time to time, we also have a responsibility to provide that help to others, as well. Doing so won’t cure World Hunger, or magically transform our nation into some kind of Nirvana. But it will make a difference.
A small difference, I agree… but a difference, just the same.