I was in a situation a few weeks ago that I can’t get out of my head; a situation that I feel guilty about, that I’m disappointed with myself about. And what usually helps is putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, and getting it out of the rumination stage and into the take-action stage.
So here goes:
A few Tuesdays ago, my family was driving to swimming lessons. We took two separate cars, as my husband was planning to head directly to the gym after swimming, while I was to take the kids home and put them to bed. The kids chose to ride their with their dad, so I was alone in my car, a very rare occurrence, cozy and comfortable. It was a stormy night, one of the few we’ve had during this mild Winter, with blowing snow and frigid temperatures, combined with mid-January evening darkness. A miserable time to be out, and I was bundled in full Winter gear for the short drive to the pool.
I slowed down as I approached a red light, and noticed three people huddled together at a bus stop sign. There was no bus shelter where they could be protected from the elements, just a bus sign on the side of the road. I made eye contact with the figure whom I presumed to be the mother, and I glanced down at her two young daughters, who were likely in the four to six age range. All three were in snowpants and parkas, scarves and toques, all carrying grocery bags and waiting for the bus to arrive.
I didn’t stop to help. I had two empty carseats, an SUV full of trunk space, and I didn’t stop. Several weeks later, I am still thinking about why on earth I didn’t stop. This was not in my usual character. I could’ve helped, I could’ve brightened their day, I could’ve made a difference. But I chose not to.
Ten seconds later, I phoned my husband through my car’s Bluetooth. “I’m turning around,” I said, “I’m going back to pick up that family I just saw.”
“I saw them too,” he said. “Good idea.”
I turned around. I went back to pick them up. But in the three or four minutes it had taken me to reach that decision, they were gone, likely already on the bus they’d be waiting for. And I’d missed my chance. I’d missed my chance to be the best person I can be. To be the person I want my kids to be. To be the person that I usually am.
I arrived at the pool a few minutes after my family, and explained what happened. I’d lost the opportunity to help, I told them. I wish I would’ve reacted sooner, I told them. Mommy was trying to be a good person, I told them.
But I didn’t try hard enough, and I’m quite honestly beating myself up about it. Now, you can be assured I didn’t write this post to get online approval, or the you-really-are-a-good-person comments, but rather I wrote it because human experience has a learning curve. Here’s a good reminder for us all: if you see a person who needs help, help.
Next time, I’ll do better.