The People Who Stop
I had been planning to write this column for a while when the bombing at the Boston Marathon occurred in April. Many friends in my Facebook universe posted a quote from the beloved children’s show host, Fred Rogers, that went like this:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”
It gives us hope that the inherent goodness of people is far more prevalent in the world than the horrors perpetrated by a deranged few.
In my life, I noticed something that could be a corollary to this. I think the world is broken down into two types of people: people who stop, and people who don’t.
Unfortunately, I have pretty much lived in the latter group. Most times, when I see an accident or a dog running loose or a down-and-out panhandler, I keep on going. “I don’t have any medical training; I’ll just be in the way,” I think. “I have someplace to be,” or “He just wants the money for beer,” are the thoughts that keep me from being one of Mr. Rogers’ “helpers.”
I think I’m a good person: I volunteer, give money and try to spur others to action by telling compelling stories. My friends would probably say nice things about my generosity. But I have never pulled over to help, and one particular event still leaves me feeling guilty.
Once, while driving to Publix on Mahan Drive, an accident occurred right in front of me. I had to hit the brakes as one of the cars crossed my lane before stopping. I recognized the Mustang, owned by a young man who lived down the street from me. I didn’t know him by name, but I knew that (loud) car and what house he lived in. He got out of the car, bloodied from an injury to his mouth, but walking around. Another man was on his cell phone, calling for help. I drove on. “You have a baby in the back seat,” I told myself. “He’s going to be OK.”
Now I know that, even if I couldn’t really “do” anything, I should have been there for him. He could have used a friendly word, and I could have assured his mother that he was all right. It’s certainly what I would hope an acquaintance would do for one of my children in the same situation.
Thankfully, I know several People Who Stop. My friend, Gayla, stopped on the turnpike after an accident where several people were injured and at least one had died. It must be hereditary, because her son did the same thing a few years later (with a baby in the car, I might add). While swimming off Panama City Beach, my daughter’s boyfriend, Ben, saw a sea turtle with a rope around its flipper. He held on until a boat passed by that was willing haul the turtle out of the water and take it to get help. My coworkers chased a pair of dogs around Miccosukee Road, took photos and plastered them on Facebook (including the Tallahassee Magazine page, where it was shared 41 times, the most ever). Two guys once took the time to change a flat tire for me.
There’s a special place in heaven for the People Who Stop. And may God bless every one of them.