“If I can help somebody as I pass along… then my living shall not be in vain.”
—Alma Bazel Androzzo, composer of "If I Can Help Somebody"
Why is it that some people stop to help and others just keep going?
In my adult life, I’ve happened upon a number of memorable car accidents. In one, a mother was unconscious while her small child was screaming in the back of the car. My friend and I raced to pull the child from the mangled car, which was in a busy intersection. The police and the mother were thankful for our compassion in helping.
A few years later, I’m traveling home when I see a car go down an embankment. I pull over and run back down the highway. When I get to the car, the woman inside asks me, quite rudely, what I’m doing. When I tell her I came to help, she seems annoyed. Police arrive and they, too, inquire why I stopped and tell me that I need to mind my own business.
More years pass. I’m driving with my toddler and witness a car drive under a tanker. I jump from my car and crawl under the tanker to the driver, who’s confused, bleeding, scared. While we wait for help, I call her family and clean her wounds. When help arrives, the police ask me why I stopped to help her when I had a small child with me. He says I should have just kept going, to which I reply, “With a small child in the car, what message am I teaching if I don’t help?”
One day it was my turn to need help: my car was stuck in a snowy embankment and I could not get myself unstuck. I was getting more and more frantic, as my children were with me and the car was jutting out into the street.
My oldest child was confused: why would no one stop and help us, when I often stop to help others? I was wondering the same thing as many cars splashed by. While I couldn’t answer his question, I asked him to promise that if he was ever able to help someone, and it wouldn’t put him in harm’s way, he would stop and help if he could. He thought about it. Even though people weren’t stopping to help us, my son said, he wanted to be more like me and stop to help someone anyway.
I’d like like to think that by my stopping, I’m setting a good example for my kids. What example is that? Compassion, maybe; a caring heart, a gentle spirit. Maybe it’s my hope that one day, someone like them will have had a mom like me, and someone will stop and lend me a hand.
Oh kind and gentle spirit, please give us a kind and compassionate heart that we may help others as we pass along life’s journey. Amen.