All Blog Posts

Doing the Right Thing

October 6, 2014

When I mentioned it to Mrs. Chatterbox she looked alarmed, like I’d lost my mind. When I stopped speaking she said, “You did the right thing.”


When I mentioned it to our son CJ, he cocked his head like I was stupid for even considering such a thing. Finally, relief flooded his face and he said. “You did the right thing.”


But I still feel badly about it.


I was coming home from my morning swim at the public pool, half a mile from where we live. Now that summer was over and schools were back in session, the roads were choked with morning school buses. One of them had stopped to pick up kids on a corner several blocks from our townhouse. I had to wait until it lowered its flashing stop sign and drove off before proceeding. Ignoring these signs is a danger to children darting across the street to catch the bus, as well as a guaranteed fine of $680.


The bus pulled away from the curb and headed for its next stop. Hurrying past a curve in the road was a young girl around seven or eight. She was late for the bus and had been running to catch it, but she stopped in her tracks when she saw her efforts had been futile. As I drove past her I noticed she was sobbing.


I was in no hurry to get home and had nothing pressing once I got there. My day was my own and my first impulse was to give this little girl a ride to the next bus stop, or drive her to school, which I assumed wasn’t that far away. What if her parents had already left for work and there wasn’t anyone home to drive her to school, I wondered.


I was at the point of reversing directions and offering her a ride when disturbing images hard shouldered their way into my head, images from the evening news, faces of missing kids on milk cartons, teary parents clutching each other, microphones shoved in their faces to capture quivering voices begging for information about their missing child. The world was full of perverts and I didn’t want to be mistaken for one. It was one of the few times when I wished I’d had a cell phone so I could call someone, although I had no idea who I’d call.


I worried about that child crying on the sidewalk, with only me to see her standing there, all alone. What if someone drove by who wasn’t like me, someone with evil intentions?


I was relieved when she pulled out a cell phone and began speaking with someone, glad to realize she wasn’t alone after all.


“You did the right thing,” Mrs. Chatterbox had said.


“You did the right thing,” CJ had echoed.


Of course they were right. Both work for our local police department and, more than most, they’re painfully aware of the tragic circumstances befalling children every day.  


I didn’t come to the aid of that little girl. Not doing so was the right thing to do. But I’m not happy about it.  







I'm right there with you - I would have felt compelled to turn around and help that poor child, but the world is changing. I hate the changes, by the way. But I love your site! You're stuck with me.
By: Cherdo on October 6, 2014
Yes, you did the right thing but I certainly understand feeling guilty. It's hard not to harken back to our own childhoods when life was slightly different more Innocent???? less fear filled???? Back when my own daughter was the age of this little girl, was when I think the media brought the horribles into our lives in a much more routine fashion. Now, everyday there is a tragedy of a missing child or an adult being charged with something terrible and some of them being completely innocent. Horrible to have to play a hard game of CYA but you did see her use her cell phone and that's huge.
By: omalinda on October 6, 2014
so very tough. that we live in today's world.
By: TexWisGirl on October 6, 2014
Your heart doesn't hesitate, but our darn brains kick in with todays reality, and that my friend is terribly sad.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 6, 2014
I'm a firm believer of never approaching children under any circumstances ever. You will get labeled a pedophile. Don't talk to them in public places UNLESS a parent is present and be aware that most people will assume first and foremost that you are a pervert.
By: Michael Offutt on October 6, 2014
What a shame hat our society has conditioned us NOT to help!!
By: fishducky on October 6, 2014
Wait... I don't see that you did nothing. ou may have taken the passive approach, but you didn't ignore the situation. So... yeah, you did the right thing.
By: Uncle Skip on October 6, 2014
Yes, I suppose you did do the right thing. But, like you, I feel sad about the changes in our society.
By: Catalyst on October 6, 2014
It is just so sad that genuine help cannot be offered. You did the right thing, however it tears the heart in two!.
By: John on October 6, 2014
You did the right thing- unfortunately NOT helping someone has become the right thing. It's a very sad situation.
By: Kathe W. on October 6, 2014
You don't carry a cell phone? Maybe it's time to start. I would have pulled to the side of the road and called the police and waited to see what happened. I'm not criticizing you. I know you couldn't offer her a ride or even speak to her. But if you can have a mobile with you, then it's a good idea to do so. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 6, 2014
I usually cringe when I hear (or read) where someone is talking about how much worse things are these days, but in the case here, it is hard to argue otherwise. For even just 20 years ago, no one in their right-mind would have thought badly of a stranger offering to help a child in such a situation. In fact, those who simply ignored her plight would have been strongly admonished.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on October 6, 2014
Sadly the correct thing is not always the right thing but I agree with your family. The child's parents did the right thing in instructing her what to do in this situation. But not being able to help a sobbing child is heart wrenching. I'm sorry that our society has evolved this way.
By: Hilary on October 6, 2014
This is where being a woman is actually a good thing - not that she should have accepted my help either :)
By: The Bug on October 6, 2014
Hopefully she would have been properly conditioned and would not have gotten in the car with you anyway. It is such a shame our society has evolved to this but you had little choice.
By: Akansas Patti on October 6, 2014
This was a lose lose situation. I was talking to a little girl in front of my house. I am designated as her safe house. Some one reported me. Luckily They reported to her Dad.
By: red on October 6, 2014
Even as a woman, I am hesitant to talk to strange kids in public. Partially, because I don't want anyone to mistake my intentions and partially because I don't want to encourage the kids to talk to strangers! Yes, for sure you did the right thing. At least you kept on eye on her to see that she had a solution.
By: Kinley Dane on October 6, 2014
Yes. That's the way it is these days. I have passed kids walking home from school in the rain, kids from my classes, yet even with my own boys in the car, I dare not ask if they want a ride. That's the way it is.
By: Val on October 6, 2014
Sadly, it's not the thing to do without one's motives being questioned. And it's not that abusers are more common now; they've always been there it's just that we are more aware of the issue now as compared to past generations.
By: Bryan Jones on October 7, 2014
Understandably, you're not happy about it. It's a shame the world is so twisted and evil than a kind man cannot offer to help a child without fear of serious repercussions.
By: Robyn Engel on October 7, 2014
In this case the right thing runs counter to what your heart tells you. That is evidence that life has been robbed of innocence by an evil that is more sinister than its obvious appearance. Though a passing story, your post reaches into profound thought. It is a sad story with a happy ending, but a frightening cliffhanger.
By: Tom Cochrun on October 7, 2014
You DID do the right thing---but isn't it sad that nowadays we have to second guess this stuff?
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on October 7, 2014
Stephen: Your story reminds me of a similar experience. A drunk woman lost control of a van and nearly flipped over in front of me as I was driving, blowing our three of her four tires. I pulled over. and asked her if she was alright. She was clearly drunk and dazed. I said "Don't move I'll get help" and proceeded to call police on my call phone. She replied, "I don't trust you. You're too nice".
By: Michael Manning on October 7, 2014
It's indeed a sad situation when not helping someone is doing the right thing. I worry about my granddaughter's every day and try to talk about safety when I can but it's such a scary world. This was a good post and perhaps an eye opener for some!
By: Bouncin Barb on October 10, 2014
I understand how you feel. Good intentions, but they can be misunderstood. When I'm out and about in public, I never take pictures of kids - unless it's an anonymous crowd of people, or the kids have their backs turned towards me.
By: Pixel Peeper on October 10, 2014

Leave a Comment


Return to All Blog Posts Main Page

RSS 2.0   Atom