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17th of March 2018


Helping a Woman Cross the Street -

—I make the turn and see her. She can’t be more than five feet tall. She is overdressed for the weather. She is about five feet from the curb cut. She isn’t moving. She is looking at a cell phone. She is resting her weight on a wheeled walker.

Much of the snow has melted. There is still snow lining the streets in this small Northeastern United States city and icy patches on the sidewalks. I slow down and take the turn a little wide. Then I take the turn into my psychotherapist’s parking lot.

He is in a group practice. There is one parking space left in the lot. With my Parkinson Disease, I am slower than I used to be maneuvering my car while parking. I am all lined up to park. A faster driver just entered the parking lot and is headed for the space I want, because I got here first.

The driver that was after my spot is doing the right thing. She is making eye contact with me. I am smiling and moving my car closer to the parking spot. She is smiling and backing away.

I am not forgetting about the woman in the road, leaning on a walker, looking at her phone. I just think it best that I go inside the office building and announce that I am on time for my appointment, but had a little something I needed to do before I discussed my problems with my psychotherapist.

As I go inside, I see my psychotherapist standing in the reception area. I explain that I need to go see if a woman I saw standing in the street was okay. My psychotherapist smiles and nods.

I walk back to the intersection. It is busy with motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Not big city busy. Just small city busy. The short lady is still there. She has stopped looking at her cell phone. She is starting to move. I approach her cautiously. I am concerned I might startle her. If she gets startled she might slip on some ice. I might slip on the ice with her.

I tell her I thought she was doing a good thing by getting out of the road. She agrees. I walk back to my psychotherapy session.

After the session I asked myself why I hadn’t stopped my car in the street, put on my flashing hazard lights, gotten out of the car and saw to it the women crossed the street safely. In the time it had taken to park my car in a parking lot, that woman could have easily been run over.

Good men have been helping those who need help crossing a street since the invention of streets. How they help keeps changing at an ever-accelerating rate. Effective helping requires some survey of the situation. If I had applied my brakes when I first saw the woman, I could have caused the car following me to crash. What to do is also influenced by cultural factors. Without conscious thought, I quickly assessed that no one nearby thought this to be much of an emergency situation and there were plenty of people nearby.

When I asserted my right to take the parking space that I was headed into I did so, having helping this woman on my mind. I got distracted thinking maybe I was being too assertive.

I am not sure why I thought letting my psychotherapist know what I needed to do before I saw him was important. My psychotherapist, a very caring person, didn’t offer to help me check on the woman. He probably would have if I had asked him to, or if I hadn’t been so calm when announcing that there was a woman standing in the road a half a block away who might need some help.

Had I decided not to go back and check on the woman and she had been killed by a truck, I am sure my psychotherapist would have done a good job counseling me about my guilt.

As a passer-by of this woman in a risky situation, I could have concluded that helping her was somebody else’s job. A woman or women who were closer to the woman when I saw her, might have been better suited to the job. Less likely that the woman standing in the road would worry that they might rape her, than I.

I could have reasoned helping this woman was the job for the police. After all they are the experts in such matters and my tax dollars help pay their salaries.

I could have remembered that if the woman got run over and injured there was an almost certainty that someone would have called 911, while somebody else took a video to share later with their friends.

I could have hoped that a closer man could have stood guard while a closer woman asked the woman if she needed any help.

If I had needed to walk two blocks instead of a half a block to see if this woman needed help, I probably would have let some of these excuses save me a trip. As it was she made it across the street on her own. I didn’t ask her where she was going to see if she knew. I didn’t have the time to do that, I had an appointment.

When I was driving home from my appointment I saw the woman about six blocks away cruising along the sidewalk. I hoped she had gotten where she wanted to go and now was headed home.

Men have long valued the role of being a protector/rescuer of the weak. Nowadays there are so many trained experts at that, who can be summoned at a push of a button, that a man not so trained is encouraged to stay out of the way.

I read somewhere recently the advice of trying to go out of your way to help out another person you are not obligated to help every day, as a spiritual practice. The idea is that doing so will put you closer to God and make you happier than seeing a psychotherapist.

In these times, tempting to do so will put you at greater risk of being told to mind your own business, sued, beat up and taken advantage of. A good man assesses the situation and does something. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Doing that every day. That is a bit much.

Those who are stuck on materialism may believe that time will give us better and better technologies. The woman I went to help might have been better helped my a talking traffic light or a companion robot. Trouble is the talking traffic light would bring more traffic and the robot could join with other robots to turn all humans into greater slaves than they already are.

Men, please join me in reviewing your spiritual life. No need to give me a Like on my Facebook page if this prompts you to do so.

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