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Ignoring a Call for Help

08 Feb 2010

Last night I drove up to Tualatin to pick up my two older sons.  While I was sitting in my car waiting outside of a store, I saw an older woman pushing a cart full of cans.  It caught my interest mainly because she was wearing a bright pink outfit.  She looked homeless, confused and disheveled, but did not seem lost or in need of any help.  When she started to walk away it was clear that she had urinated and soiled her pants.  At that moment I was unsure of what to do, obviously there were some issues here and she needed help, but unfortunately I sat there and just thought.  She eventually was out of sight, but apparently not out of mind.

It bothers me that I saw someone in need, and I only thought about it.  I failed to act.  I wonder how many times someone in need was helped by all the wonderful thoughts of others?  Still, I am not sure what I could have done.  However, I am sure if I asked her what she needed she might have told me.  I may have been able to help her with one of her needs, or maybe not.  I was paralyzed by over analyzing the situation and when a plan of action was finally formalized the time for action had passed.

I am usually a very helpful person, helping in some very serious car accidents, helping a woman get home who fainted while walking, and so on.  When that little voice inside me says “you need to help” it is a call to action.  Why in this situation, with this woman, I just watched from inside my car and thought is something for me to figure out and correct.

In the future I am going to try to remember this:

If you see someone who appears to need help, ask them what they need.  You might be able to provide it for them or find someone who can.  They might tell you they don’t need anything, or might yell at you, but at least you will be able to know you tried, you asked… you talked to them.

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From → Living

  1. Jim, great post. Three times in the past 2 months I have stopped my car to see if someone needed help. The first time was a man in a questionable part of DC who said he needed an jump. The second was a man with car trouble in the middle of route 15 north of Frederick, MD, and the last was a man laying in the snow the weekend before last. In every case, I was nervous and a little bit scared for my safety. In all of the cases I was able to help the person either directly or by calling Police/Ambulance for them. I have not helped several times in the past too, but like you I am trying to be better! Good luck!

    • Reed, thanks for the comment. Your blog, Year of Giving, is very inspiring not only because of what you are doing, but why you are doing it. I have added a link to it here on my blog, so others might have a chance to see it as well.

  2. Thank you for expressing this compassion. If only all the world would reach out, and help others, what a better world it would be. We all need help from time to time. So, we reap what we sow.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts….I have a visual myself of your little lady in pink, and it makes me sad, but I pray, God bless her. i understand in part why you did not reach out. Because I don’t always either. But it should be incentive….

    • Elena – thanks for the comment! It is kind of a karma thing, and I do believe most of us try to be helpful ~ it’s just some situations I think are more difficult.

  3. Trina permalink

    I appreciate this insight into your heart, Jim. As our financial resources have dwindled recently, I’ve found myself trying to be more sensitive to ways I can help others that don’t involve spending money. It’s amazing how when you are open to helping, you’re given opportunities to do so. Of course, I’ve shrugged off a couple of promptings for many of the same reasons you identified, and I always kick myself afterward too. But more often, I’ve been touched by what a difference a note, a smile, or an encouraging word can make. I’m happy to reconnect with such a compassionate friend. ;o)

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