The idea for this post came from Elisa Camahort Page's blog, Elisa's Green Scene. In her lovely post, she commented on an act of kindness that she'd done, and invited us to share ours. I shared one, but it made me think, and I wanted to expound on my comment. Rather than hogging her comment section, I wanted to bring it here - and I would love to have you all chime in.
This is the story behind the comment I left on Elisa's blog, in response to her story of sharing, and asking how we'd made other people's days better. At first, I thought I'd definitely done something to make someone's life better, but now I'm not so sure.
Two of my daughters take ballet class downtown, and the bus routes run fairly actively during class time. We arrived early for a class that one of my daughters attends and were sitting in the truck while I fixed her hair. The bus stop was right in front of us, and I saw a older woman, in her mid to late 60's at least, waiting for the bus. She had a tall white cane - the cane for the blind - and dark glasses on, and it was apparent that she was at the very least heavily visually impaired. A bus came, and she tried to get on, but after talking with the driver she got off. She stood back under the bus stop sign. My daughters and I talked about it while I fixed the one dancer's hair and both girls ate their snacks - from the comfort of our warm car. I started to feel slightly uncomfortable, like I was guilty of some kind of privilege, even though I'd done absolutely nothing.
Thirty minutes later, I had dropped my daughter into her class and was back in my truck with my youngest daughter - and the woman still stood there. At this point, I'd been aware of her for almost an hour. It was very cold out, around 25 degrees, and beginning to get dark, and I saw another woman go up to talk to her, and then the second woman pulled out her phone to consult something. While I watched them talk, I called my husband. I wanted to offer her a ride, but I was afraid. What did he think?
Was I really stupid to even think about doing it? After all, I didn't know her, had no idea who she was, and only had appearances to go by - what if she wasn't blind? Not only that, I had my youngest daughter with me - what if something happened to me, what would happen to her? My husband said I should offer her a ride, if it wasn't far. Do the right thing, he encouraged. Help others.
I got out of the truck and approached her. She was, indeed, blind, and she needed to get a ride to the Social Services building, as she was new in the city and didn't have a place to sleep for the night. She had no family to call, no one to connect with, no one who would care if she didn't show up - but she really needed to get to the Social Services building in a hurry. There was no bus that was scheduled to drop her at that route for an hour, and by then, the building would be closed. I held my daughter's hand, screwed up my courage, and offered her a ride.
I felt like, what if it was my mother, or my aunt, or grandmother? She was someone's mother, or child, or aunt and I would absolutely hate it if my mother was standing at a bus stop in the cold for an hour.
The problem was compounded by the fact that the woman, whose name was Florence, didn't know where she was supposed to go. She didn't have an address, and so I looked it up on my phone - and drove to where I thought it was - and I was wrong. And she became upset with me, flustered and irritable and wondered aloud if I knew where I was going. Finally, three U turns later, I found it, and we encountered another problem. The building had three steps in, and there was no way that Florence was going to be able to get up those steps - and there were at least twenty men, who appeared to be homeless, standing around. It was at this point completely pitch black outside. There was no way I was going to leave my truck, with my daughter inside, on the street while I helped her out of the truck - a higher height than she could safely navigate on her own - and there was no way I felt right just stopping the truck and basically tossing her to the curb - and, to compound things further, the Social Services building appeared closed. I finally turned off the truck, walked around to the other side, helped Florence out, and locked my daughter in with my phone. I crossed the street while we were both carefully observed by the casually reclining men, and I left her on the steps of the building. She said, "I'll take it from here, I know what I'm doing."
And I took that as an invitation and got right back in my truck.
I absolutely HATED that I felt so much fear. I just wanted to do something nice. I wanted to help someone who was struggling - why did I have to have fear?
I was afraid of giving her a ride. I didn't know her. How did I know that she was, indeed blind? How did I know that I wasn't going to be the victim of a crime - and my youngest daughter, who was in the truck with me - was it wise to do this? If I didn't give her a ride, what would have happened? Would anyone have helped her, or, as we very often do, would we walk or drive on by and never take a second glance?
When I got back in the car, my daughter said, "I was really scared, Mommy, but I'm really glad we did a good deed for her."
It probably wasn't smart to do it - but it was kind. Thinking back, I still feel that it was kind, for I would hate to have had my mother, or my grandmother, left standing by an uncaring world.
But, maybe next time, I will think it through a little bit more. Maybe, in my quest to be more kind, more helpful, and more aware of people - I'll elect to buy someone a cup of coffee instead.
Have you done something to help someone that didn't go the way you thought it might?
And is fear there for a reason?