Colleen, here, Communications Coordinator for Generations United. This is only my second foray into blog-writing. But I wanted to share with you something that happened this morning on my way to work.
Most days I ride the bus to my subway stop and the entire trip is pretty uneventful. This morning, though, at one bus stop, a young Hispanic male came aboard pushing a middle-aged man with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair. In broken English, he asked the bus driver to help secure the man’s wheelchair, then hurried off to wait for his own bus to arrive. Meanwhile, our bus driver immediately cleared space for the man in the wheelchair and made certain he was safely in place before driving on.
At my stop, as I was alighting from the bus, I heard the man in the wheel chair ask the bus driver for help getting off. I continued on to a nearby Metro elevator, but glanced back to see if the man was doing okay on his own. I noticed he was pushing himself backward with his feet and that he was moving precariously close to the edge of the curb. Suddenly, the wheelchair tipped over and into the street, leaving the young man lying dazed in oncoming traffic.
Out of 11 able-bodied people standing at the elevator, three of us responded. No one else moved; they just stood there watching.
With some difficulty, the two young women and I managed to get the young man upright and in his wheelchair. After making sure he was okay, we walked back to the elevator. The others had already disappeared into the Metro station.
The experience left me dumb-founded and reflecting on a TV show I recently came across: “Primetime: What Would You Do?” The show sets up every-day scenarios that reflect on how people act and what they decide to do. The show uses actors to play out a normal everyday scene and then tapes the occurrence with hidden cameras to examine how passersby react to everyday dilemmas that test their character and values. But this instance wasn’t an act, it was the real deal. I couldn’t help wondering why so many people would stand around or walk by, rather than help, as another human being could be seriously injured.
The experience also made me think about those who did come forward: the anonymous young passenger who helped the man board the bus; the busy, middle-aged bus driver who made sure the man’s wheelchair was secured; the two twenty-somethings and me (a baby boomer), who made sure he was okay. Small acts of kindness by several strangers, but it left a big impression.
The common denominator wasn’t age, or gender, or ethnic background, or even self-interest; it was our humanity. Any thoughts?
Photo courtesy ABC’s What Would You Do?