Last night as we were headed home from a trip to Costco, I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a car hit a bicyclist. I witnessed the moment of impact and saw the boy’s body fly through the air and land on the sidewalk. I quickly flipped the car around as Alex frantically dialed 911.
The boy’s name is Raul, and he’s 17 years old. I held his hand and tried to reassure him while I relayed information to the 911 dispatcher.
A woman came up and said, “I’m a nurse.” She checked Raul’s pulse. A man came up and said, “I have emergency medical training.” He took off his jacket and put it under the boy’s head. In less than 10 minutes the ambulance arrived and the paramedics moved in like a swarm of bees.
As Alex and I walked back to our car, the man who was driving the car that hit Raul was shaking his head. I asked, “Are you okay?”
He scowled and said, “This is all I needed today! That kid must have been going 25 or 30 miles per hour through that intersection!” He then looked at the front of his car and said, “Poor bumper.”
I said, “Poor kid.” Alex and I got in our car and drove off.
After we got home I replayed the entire event over and over in my mind. A group of total strangers became instantly united in our desire to help a boy we’d never seen before. The man who hit him, and who should have been the most involved in helping, was trying to shift the blame away from himself. He appeared to be more concerned about his car’s bumper than the boy’s legs.
I came to the conclusion that we all respond to crisis differently. I think what happened last night is what happens in a lot of families when someone gets hurt or sick. Often, the person you think should be the one to step up is the first one to step away. I don’t understand this, can’t explain it, and I certainly can’t defend it, but I do know that I felt good about getting involved and doing what I could to help. If I had kept on driving, if I hadn’t turned the car around, the image of that boy’s body flying through the air would have haunted me forever.
This experience reminded me that our lives can change in a heartbeat. People we care about will make stupid mistakes, and some will disappoint us when we witness their lack of character or commitment when they are needed the most. There are many, many things over which we have no control, but we always have control over how we choose to react to any person, situation or event. And when we do the right thing, I think it’s a whole lot easier to sleep at night.
Elaine K Sanchez is an author, speaker and co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, a video-based caregiver support program. Contact her directly at Elaine@EKSanchez.com.