Making a (small) difference

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.

Line of traffic 55

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.

stunned 4

My face…

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?

1950s chivalryIt used to be that if a woman so much as dropped her hat, there’d be a scramble as every guy in the area would attempt to retrieve it for her.

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.


20 responses to “Making a (small) difference

  1. livinrightinpgh

    You see it all of the time….people with an over-inflated sense of self, acting out 100% selfishly, completely impatient, with little to no regard for others around them.

    Earlier today, I read a story over at The Blaze about a mother of 3 who was at the ballgame with her kids, and it detailed a delightful young man and his female companion who were sitting in front of them. Instead of getting all indignant over the kids behind him, the young man engaged them in baseball chats, walked them down to the dugout to see if they could get a baseball, etc. Bottom line, the lady writes him a thank you letter on her blog and it goes viral. Great story of the actions of a very kind young man.

    The irony to me is the number of asinine comments she got from people. Everything from saying it’s because all parties involved were white, to criticizing the Mom for saying she had a few beers at the game. (NO, she was NOT driving.)

    Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me. We’ve have decades of humanism and ungodliness PROMOTED. It’s the “it’s all about ME” crowd. How DARE that mother and her 3 kids breakdown at the mall and delay ME??!!!

    This is what you get when you remove God and morals from society.

    • I hadn’t heard about that baseball story, Pgh: I’ll look it up.

      As for the morals/God/etc aspect, yeah, I think that’s easily part of it.
      Inherent in that teaching were the objective truths that are associated with faith. Part of being God-fearing is to accept that there is both right and wrong. Now we live in an age where very little is said to be wrong, …with the possible exception of being a “climate denier” or some such thing.

      To me, not helping someone in obvious need (with the obvious caveat of excluding folks who are trying to scam you or hurt you) is plain wrong, and that goes for atheists, Christ followers, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and everyone else, too.

  2. Something like that happened to me twice in my life. Once at Giant Eagle where I had a dizzy spell and just crouched down to see if it would go away. Well, it wouldn’t. Some kind lady got the manager and he called my husband. He even took me in the back giving me a bucket because I was so nauseous. What a blessing that was.! It happened to me at the movies. Went to buy coke to settle my stomach and sat for over an hour with my head down. Not one person came to my rescue. Put God in the story and you do helpful things. How stingy we ‘ve become. So sad.

    • Agreed, Di.
      I’m glad to hear that in at least one of those instances someone was there to help. I think people are paranoid that maybe they’ll be intruding somehow, …but honestly I’m just guessing here.

      It doesn’t make sense to me, obviously.

  3. Déjà vu! About two weeks ago, I was in an extremely busy parking lot (it was at a casino, so, you can imagine) continuous stream of people coming and going… and there was this lady, standing next to her vehicle with its hood up. I noticed her and started to drive over to the lane she was in, but by the time I got there, a security officer was talking with her. Figuring that she was getting some help, I parked a few rows over. As I was walking towards the building, out from a row of cars came a voice saying “excuse me ma’am”… when I stopped and turned, it was the same lady. She asked if it would be possible for me to send her husband a text to let him know that she had car problems but that she was OK. I said of course and we started chatting… she had been there for well OVER TWO HOURS and not one single person would help her!! She had point blank requested help from multiple people, asked to jump her car… was told “no, I don’t really want to do that, because my car is new”… asked to use their phones… was told “no” with multiple different excuses. Over and over, person by person, all she heard was NO. Can you freakin’ believe that??? I was like, “why didn’t you just go into the building for help?” and she said because she was standing in the spot directly across from her car to save it and keep it open in case someone would be willing to giver her vehicle a jump. *sigh*

    • Heck, that’s the primary reason I have the extra-long jumper cables in my car: you never can tell when they’ll come in handy.
      “One good turn…”, etc.,.

      But I’m certainly no saint: it’s just what our teachers, parents and pastor always taught us growing up.
      Which means that folks are being taught something vastly different nowadays.

      • “But I’m certainly no saint”… me either, nor am I am hero, but that is not the point.

        “it’s just what our teachers, parents and pastor always taught us growing up.
        Which means that folks are being taught something vastly different nowadays.”… <—- that is.

        And it started, in my opinion, in the day of the grunge (the 90's) IMO. What exactly happened, or the moment it took place, I don't know… but it is extremely evident in our society today. And it causes me grieve.

        • “nor am I am hero”… and the reason I state that is, people today feel like a ‘hero’ is someone of extraordinary or exceptional ‘talent’ who make a bold and sweeping action. Like the hollyweird movies/shows… but that is not true. We don’t have to don a super cape and go out looking for people to help, we only have to do ‘the right thing’ at the ‘right moment’, just ‘Making a (small) Difference’ one at a time, and that would change everything within the big picture.

        • Agreed, Teach, which is why I couched my phrasing that way.
          I don’t view anything I did as particularly special: just doing the basic minimum as another person, and as I’d fully expect someone else to do for my wife and kids.

          That’s why I was so stunned: this used to be the baseline for behavior, and in my mind it still is.

          • “and in my mind it still is”… amen brother and if we each just keep that in mind (do not allow our hearts to wax cold, no matter what is going on) than there will always be hope!

            OK, we have now solved the world’s problems (because, let us be honest, EVERYTHING boils down to the individual and the state of their heart and soul 😉 ) so, what’s next? 😀 LOL

            • Hebrews 13:1-2

              13:1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

  4. In addition to the idea of helping the woman and her kids, what was also MISSING in the minds of all the people who did not stop to help was the idea that a problem existed: Traffic was being blocked. Nobody thought to take the initiative to solve the problem themselves for the betterment of the whole group. Nope, let’s wait for the government to come to the rescue.

    • I’m guessing they figured as long as THEY got past it, they didn’t care.
      You’re right, Sally: if they would have jumped in, they could have helped rectify the problem. But it’s easier, I suppose, to complain…and then leave.

      Just another aspect of human behavior that has gone awry recently. Honestly, I don’t recognize the world sometimes…

  5. Good points. We can make a difference, albeit a small one with each and every act of kindness. I carry jumper cables in my pickup (in Texas it’s said “you’re a red-neck if you carry jumper cables … for your own vehicle” :))
    and I carry a bag of dog food in the chance of seeing a hungry stray dog. That idea came from my good friend David ( Thanks for a great post and lesson in kindness.

  6. A perfect story for these times. So much different than when I was growing up in rural America, I was blessed.

  7. Pingback: Man saves dog from drowning, …before he saves his wife? | Two Heads are Better Than One

  8. Wow 45 minutes. And no not everyone has a cell phone.She could have been giving birth, who would know?

    • Exactly my point.
      I’d have stopped if it was a guy, with no kids.
      and I’d expect most others to, as well.

      But a lady? WITH 3 kids? And people are passing her at a crawl?

  9. Pingback: Society and the “Halfway Decent” Samaritan | Two Heads are Better Than One

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