By Lisa Sugarman
You know me. I’m an optimist. It’s just how I’m wired. I always see the cup as half full. Usually spilling over. Can’t help it. Life just doesn’t make sense to me any other way. My natural inclination is to see the positive in people and in situations. Anything less seems silly. But sometimes that’s not possible. Not even for me. Sometimes, I see something that shakes my faith a little. Something that just makes me hang my head down low and shake it back and forth. Back and forth. And wonder how people can be so unaffected and cold to the people and things around them.
Most stuff I can just fluff off, especially when it doesn’t affect me directly. Like when I see someone chuck a Wendy’s bag out their window on the Pike. It stings for a second and then I refocus and I’m over it. Or when the dink in the Market Basket parking lot boxes out the 93 year-old woman in the Lincoln Town Car and snags her spot. Dave usually sees me tense up, like I’m gonna get out of the car and throw down. Then he gives me the look he’s given me since the 80s, the one that says, “Chill, babe. Karma will get him in the end. Let it go.” And he’s right.
But the things I can’t let go of are the things that people do that just defy even basic, fundamental core value systems. Things like kindness. I mean, in terms of human circuitry, that should be one of the lead wires, right?
Let me frame something for you and you tell me. What would you do if you were driving down Humphrey Street one afternoon and you saw two high school-age girls on the side of the road, one clearly injured, probably from a fall while she was running, the other consoling the first one? Would it make you pause? Would you be compelled to stop and make sure they were alright? Would you offer your cell so they could call for someone? Or would you look the other way and keep driving?
I know I’ll never know how you’re answering, but believe me when I say I hope you weren’t one of the cars who drove by my daughter and her bloodied friend as they stood on the side of the road a few weeks ago. Because it would make me extremely sad and I’m afraid we couldn’t be friends anymore. So I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Sadly, my daughter (normally I’d use her name, but she’s 16 and she hates it when I mention her name in my columns, so let’s call her Norma) and her friend were out for an afternoon run when a metal ring on the side of the road snagged her friend’s foot (let’s call her friend Jean….get it, Norma Jean.) Jean went down hard. So hard that she looked a lot like a biker who dumped her Harley and got a bad case of road rash. Her knees, elbows, and palms looked like coleslaw, shredded and nasty. She looked like she’d barely made it out of a steel cage match on the WWF, blood dripping down both legs and clearly shaken. She was a mess. Poor kid. Now keep in mind, I didn’t see her until most of the blood on her torn-up knees had already coagulated. Why? Because they were stuck on the side of the road in the one and only spot in the entire town where cell coverage doesn’t exist. It’s a mini Bermuda Triangle, a freak of cellular nature. Great that they had a phone with them, but useless.
It’s unclear exactly how long they were on the side of the road hitting redial. All I know is that by the time the cell gods granted them mercy and allowed their call to ring through to me, the blood on Jean’s knees had completely coagulated. Bottom line: they were there for a while.
When the call finally came through, this is how it sounded on my end… “Hey mom, uh, look, it’s not life-threatening or anything, but Jean took a pretty bad fall and she’s pretty banged up. She can’t run. Can you come get us?” Not the worst call a parent can get, but still enough to make your heart bang a little louder in your chest, for sure.
I first spotted the trail of blood streaming down Jean’s legs at about 100 yards away, that’s how noticeable it was. There was no mistaking that she had taken a digger. So why then do you suppose no one stopped to check on these kids all that time they were standing by the side of the road? You know, bleeding.
What! The! Hell?! I mean why, or rather how, did not one car stop? I really hope it’s as baffling to you as it is to me. Could it have been that they looked too shady and threatening in their Nike Frees and reversible sports bras? Did it look like a set up? Like an elaborately contrived car-jacking scheme? I mean, really?
I ask you: Where have all the good people gone? I could’ve sworn they were out there. I know so many of them.
So of course, this all leads me to ask: Why isn’t the world inundated with random acts of kindness? Why? Why are those acts the exceptions and not the norm? I know these pay-it-forward folks are out there. And I also believe that there are way more good people out there than bad. Problem is, people are still forgetting how to step forward and put themselves out there. The traits that human beings should automatically be hard wired with, in spite of any of their other character flaws—traits like kindness and empathy and advocacy—are all qualities that I think the human framework is supposed to come with right off the shelf. No?
So put yourself in my place (which is something I don’t think we all do enough of) and imagine it was your child bleeding on the side of the road. Would you hope that I would stop for them? I think we both know the answer. Now tuck that feeling somewhere in the back of your mind, and the next time you see someone who could use a hand, offer it. Please. Oh, and thanks, in advance.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn OR read her blog at https://itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com.