Being a Good Samaritan

Do you know what’s not hard?  Doing the right thing.

Teddy Roosevelt quote 1

Two winters ago (this one is pretty much over, so two it is), I witnessed a horrific roll-over accident on the highway directly in front of me.  I slammed on my brakes, put my flashers on, put my car in park (in the middle of the highway, mind you – rather stupid, but whatever), got out and superhumanly (seriously, I do not know how I did it) opened a crunched up car door on an upside down car and pulled two young women out of the car.  I was joined by another person in the scene, a man.  I never got his name, but he, too superhumanly opened a crunched up car door, laid on his stomach on the highway, and helped pull out two young women.  He had to have hurt himself scooting through the broken glass and mangled car (the side he was on was in much worse shape than the side I was on).  Yet, he reacted similarly.  We both made sure the young women were safely by the side of the highway and then he disappeared; he left the scene and went on his way.  It took 5, maybe 10 minutes of his time, to help save the lives of those young women.  I stayed, gave my statement to the police because I witnessed the entire accident, and then left to head home and hug my children 500 million times, especially my then 15 year old daughter who had her learners permit.

Fast forward to a few days ago, my oldest son and I were at the grocery store.  We were minding our own business and walking down the main aisle of the store when we saw a woman slip and fall about 40 feet away.  She landed hard on her hip.

In a split second here’s what I saw: a man right next to her who looked at her and then looked away and continued doing what he was doing; 2 other people in the same section of the store who also ignored the situation (even though she was obviously crying out in pain); numerous people walk by her to use the bathroom and just glancing at her as though she didn’t matter.

In a split second here’s what I did: told my son we have to see if she’s okay and ran to her side.  I was able to determine that she was significantly hurt and that she had two grandchildren with her (who happened to be in the bathroom).  I stayed at her side until another woman joined me, about 30 seconds later, who was a medical assistant (which is definitely someone more knowledgeable than me with regard to medical situations) and then I asked her if I could go get her grandchildren from the bathroom.  My son, thankfully, grabbed our shopping cart (with my purse!) and parked himself out of the way.  I retrieved her two granddaughters who, scarily, came with me without hesitation.  At this point a store employee was on site and was making a phone call.  I asked the woman who fell if there was someone I could call to get her grandchildren and make aware of the situation.  I then called her daughter.  Then I told her that I would take her grandchildren to go look at the fish in the pet department.  At this point, she was in the care of the store employees and there was nothing more I could do.  I simply didn’t want her grandchildren to see her in so much pain.  For the next 20 minutes, my son and I entertained two little girls with fish, cat food (?), and kitchen utensils.  Not for a moment did I question my decision to help.  (Obviously some details are left out, but hopefully you get the general idea of the situation).

I have no idea what ended up happening with that woman other than she was taken out of the store on a stretcher, but I do know how disappointed I was in my fellow humans.  I could not believe how many people ignored this woman’s pain!  It took me less than 2 seconds to respond.  If she had been okay, I would have let her be.   She was definitely NOT okay and the only problem I had was that it took me 25 minutes longer to grocery shop than I had planned.  Big stinkin’ deal.

Why were people so afraid to intervene?  Are we so jaded as a society that the mantra “Not my problem” comes into play when someone is injured?  Are we so afraid that someone will sue us for helping them?  What is the big deal?  I, seriously, do not understand it.  Is the community I live in so snooty that most of our residents only do for themselves (this is a generalization)?  I was embarrassed for my town and for that woman’s family having to be on the receiving end of such selfishness. Something is seriously flawed, people.

My son, who is 14, said to me when we got in the car, “The worst part of the entire thing is that you were the first person to help and you were not even near that lady.”  I just nodded because I couldn’t have agreed more.   I do realize that sometimes, there is nothing we can do.  Some situations aren’t safe for us to intervene or to help with, but there is always something we can do to make it better (call the police or EMS or make someone aware of the situation who is in a position to help.  There is always something we can do, somehow).  My husband said, after I filled him in on the events of the afternoon said, “It doesn’t surprise me.  We’re Christians.  That’s what we do.  Most people don’t do what we do (in those situations).”

My hope and my prayer is that my son learned a valuable lesson and, even though it was inconvenient for us, it didn’t ruin our day, it didn’t make us late for anything (and even if it did, we wouldn’t have acted any differently).  There was no reason not to help.  I don’t think I did anything worth praising, so please don’t think that’s what I’m searching for.  I’m simply trying to call attention to the fact that SO many people did nothing.  NOTHING.  What if I hadn’t acted?  What if I, too, turned and walked away?  What if that woman had laid there, crying in pain, for 15 minutes?  What if no one had thought to get her grandchildren away from the area so they didn’t have to see their grandmother in so much pain?  What if humanity never helped each other?  Thankfully, we won’t know.

MLK Quote

And for those of you wondering, the real story of the Good Samaritan can be found here: Luke 10:25-37, in the Bible.


One thought on “Being a Good Samaritan

  1. All fifty states have what is called the “Good Samaritan Law” which is supposed to protect people from being sued for acting in emergency situations. There was a case in California a number of years ago where a woman pulled a victim from a car accident, fearing the car would explode, and caused severe paralysis. The car did not explode and the victim sued. The case got a lot of media attention, which I believe has made people hesitate to stop and help. But you’re right – even if you don’t physically pull the person from the car (or whatever) you can still stop and offer assistance or see what you can do to help. I think with the prevalence of cell phones, people assume that the victims are capable of doing it themselves.
    The other thing I can point to is something I experience on occasion. There was a serial killer here in New York who was posing as a stranded motorist or hurt jogger in parking lots and on the side of the road, before cell phones were common. When someone stopped to see if he needed help, he would abduct them, rape and kill them. It became a common PSA to NOT stop for anyone, but just to call emergency services when you reached your destination. If I witness an accident, it can be different. But I’m extremely cautious when going to help someone, especially if I’m by myself. Perhaps, like the drug-awareness program from my youth which caused me to be fearful of aspirin for years, the stranger-danger PSAs have gone too far causing me to allow fear to rule my heart instead of Christ. Thanks for the reminder.


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