Malabar Road as I approach Jupiter Boulevard in SE Palm Bay. I am driving east toward US1 and the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. While the road boasts a Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Publix and every other shopping convenience one could want, except a decent place to buy produce, and no good cheese shops, and no book stores and… Ok, Big Box Alley is what it is, behind this road it is all residential so one sees plenty of people walking and biking up to Malabar Road and over to the ice cream shop, Subway, movies, library. Adults and kids, couples with dogs, friends in sweats, teens on bikes. Lots of kids on bikes.
As I cross a canal, I see to the right a bike with a middle school child stopped on the sidewalk bridge. Strange. Middle school kids on bicycles are not stationary spirits but creatures of motion and here is one stopped, looking behind him, which leads me to scan the area around him. At thirty miles per hour on a crowded road this is not what I should be doing.
I look behind me, out the passenger side and back windows of my truck and behind the child on the sidewalk. About ten feet behind him is a child, smaller, sprawled face down, prone, head arched up, looking forward. I cannot tell if he is laughing or crying but his mouth and eyes tell me he did not expect to be where he is now. Behind him, but a foot or two, is a bike – sideways, flat and not in anyway the position one would expect a bicycle to function. Neither bicycle nor boy look right. Gravity.
I should stop. He may need help. Car after car is driving by. He lays there. The boy ahead straddles his bike, body forward, looking backward. More cars go by as the distance between the prone child and I increases and I continue to think I should stop; turn around and go back, turn around and pull over, get out and see if he is ok.
But what if he is? What if someone gets the wrong idea? People are funny these days. Will the help be welcomed? Refused? Feared? Isn’t the most important thing that I try and do what is right regardless? And there is a police car a few lengths behind me. Surely I needn’t go back now because the officer will see the fallen child and stop, check to see of he is ok, help him up, take him home if needed.
The Palm Bay police car drives by. Drives by. Drives by? What if I stopped and the police saw me with the child? Would that have stopped them? What would it take for the police to stop?
I am well past the child. I did not do what was right and allowed fear to keep me from doing the right and compassionate action.
I pass Wal-Mart and am cognizant I have done wrong. I chastise myself. Is the child ok? Upright? Still flat upon the sidewalk?
I have been in the same position. No-one stopped to help me. This is how the world sinks. In increments. One fear at a time.
November 2, 2006 at 12:31 AM
For a long while, a long time ago, I had no car, and had to rely on public transportation. My job finished around midnight, so I had to wait on inner-city street corners hoping and praying that the one-bus-an-hour hadn’t broken down, as they frequently did. Once in a great while, someone would stop and offer me a ride. I never once feared the offer of such strangers, though I suppose I should have been more cautious. When I finally got a car, I vowed to be generous with rides for hitchhikers and people waiting for buses, and give money and food to homeless people on the street. And I was, for a good while. I don’t know if my resolved dimmed as the times changed and danger seemed to lurk in every shadow, or if I got frustrated when I saw a “homeless” guy pack up his sign at the end of his shift and hop into a Jag with his buddies as they compared the day’s easy take. But my charity has certainly flagged since then.Now when I see people on the street who are clearly in need or distress, I pray for them. But I think they are empty words, if I’m not at the same time offering myself as an instrument of the Divine Will.