I recently was talking with a friend from another country. She said something that stuck with me, so I thought I’d share it with you.
She said that once her son was running up a busy street in our city. He passed many well meaning adults on the busy sidewalk, but no one thought to stop him. Instead, every adult he passed just looked helpless as she chased down her son, afraid he’d run into the street. She said in Norway, if a kid were running from his parents like that, other adults would step in, would help her. But, in the US, she’s learned we’ve all become afraid of the consequences of stepping in. She was on her own.
I thought of her yesterday, as my son in just a few seconds, had darted dangerously toward the street. I was screaming my lungs out and sprinting toward him, but he only thought that was all the more funny and he kept lunging toward the street.
Luckily the driver driving towards us on the street that day had his window open and heard my blood curdling screeching. But, even as I saw the car driving toward my son slowing to a stop, I was worried that any car behind him would simply speed around, not see my son, and hit him.
As I ran toward him, I hoped, I prayed that the person who had slowed down their car would actually stop, get out, and grab my son before he kept running across the road. But, I knew in my heart that that scenario was unlikely. Strangers don’t often step in such an aggressive way. It’s just too risky. What if they’re not wanted?
I once held my newborn baby in my arms, and slipped, falling with her in my arms. As I was about to fall to the ground, face forward with her in my arms, the man I was walking with faltered, not knowing if he should catch me. When I got up, I said to him, “Why didn’t you help?” And he said, “I’m sorry, you’re such a strong, independent woman. I didn’t know if you’d want my help.”
“When a baby is about to be dropped on the ground, don’t ask, just help!” I said. We both had a good laugh, but it’s true. Are we really so afraid of not being wanted that we can’t grab a toddler running into the street? That we can’t catch a falling baby before she hits cement?
Next time you’re in a situation where there’s real danger, when someone could be hurt, when you’re stepping in is desperately needed but you’re not sure it’s wanted- error on the side of helping. Truly, if someone’s life is on the line, help first, then check in.
As it turns out, my son didn’t run all the way into the road. I sprinted toward him and in one split second (thank God) he decided to turn and laugh- coaxing me to come closer before speeding off again. I gained on him and swooped him up just in time. But, things could have gone a completely different way, and if they had, it wouldn’t have hurt to have help.