Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Would You Have Done?

Something happened on my lunch break and it has me feeling confused and guilty about the way I responded to the situation. I'll explain, and then you tell me-what would you have done?

I have been walking on my lunch break. I am way out of shape and I'm trying to build up a little bit of stamina for those hiking trails in Big Sur.

Anyway, I have been taking 30 minute walks around my workplace. Here is some basic info about where I walk:

I work in a very affluent neighborhood. You know that T.V. show? The Real Housewives of Orange County? Well that show is filmed about two blocks from where I work(in fact, one of the ladies from that show visited the business right next to us last week and parked right in front of our building-I know- big whoop). But that gives you an idea of the surrounding area where I take my walks.

Affluent. And pretty safe.

But I do walk alone.

There is this parklike area(no playground, but grass, and trees and park benches) that has a loop around it that I walk twice around.

Today as I am walking up the pathway I see a man sitting under a tree on one of the park benches. No biggie. I've seen men sitting on park benches before. :)

As I continue to come closer to him, I hear what I think is talking. I assume he is talking on a cell phone. I'm not close enough to tell for sure, but I definitely hear his voice as I am walking closer.

The closer I get, the louder his "voice" gets. I can see now that he is not talking on a cell phone. I think perhaps he is talking to himself? I continue to come closer.

As I approach the bench I see that he is crying. No. Crying is not the right word. Bawling. Sobbing. Wailing. Weeping. Those words better describe what he was doing.

As I approached him and walked past him, he buried his head in his hands and cried great, heaving sobs.

I was unsure of what to do. I looked directly at him to see if I could establish eye contact but he kept his head buried in his hands. I wanted to ask him if he was okay. Or if there was anything I could do for him.

Here's where I am ashamed. I didn't ask if he was O.K. I didn't ask if there was anything I could do. I didn't do any of those things. What did I do?

I walked right by him. Without saying a word.

And then on my way back around the loop I took the shortcut and didn't walk by him again.
Two opportunities I had to possibly help someone who was obviously in pain and I walked right by.

I feel so guilty. The entire way back to my workplace I kept asking myself why? What stopped me from the simple act of asking him if he was O.K?

Here's what I came up with. I was afraid. I am very leery of men I don't know. I watch way too many "true life" crime stories on T.V. I hear on the news every single day about women dissapearing only to be found years later floating in a river or lake or buried in some forest.
It is something I spend more time than one should spend thinking about such things. One time our neighbor was using a chain saw at ten o'clock at night and for a week I was convinced he was another Jeffrey Dahmer. Turns out he was building a bookcase for his 5 year old daughter. Oops. My bad.

My husband thinks my fascination with serial killers is funny. Or "quirky". We laugh about it all the time.

But am I letting this fear stop me from being a good person? I probably had nothing whatsoever to fear. The chances that this man was going to hurt me were slim to none.

So I think I'm just using that as an excuse. And if that's the case, what's the real reason I didn't stop?

Laziness? Because it would have put me outside my comfort zone? Neither of which are valid reasons in my book.

So, what would you have done?

P.S. I used to work at a Catholic School and we used the phrase WWJD(what would Jesus Do?) all. the. time. Perhaps I should start practicing what I preach. (Hangs head in shame).


Michele said...

Ah, this is such a hard one for me. I probably would have done exactly what you did and felt just as guilty. I try to be really trusting, but it doesn't always come easily. Sounds like you were the only two around and for that reason, I would have hesitated to ask him if he was okay...just in case it was a lure. I don't know....I would have done the same thing and questioned myself too. It doesn't make me feel too good either.
Don't beat yourself up about it. I know, easier said then done....


Made in China said...

I think I would have done the same thing.

Lisa and Tate said...

It is better to be safe than sorry.... I would be doing the same thing feeling uneasy about helping and then worrying about the WWJD? There are too many weird and strange things out there in this day and age. You have a loving heart just worrying about this...

Stacey T. said...

I would have done the same. You did the right thing you were concerned, tried to make eye contact, and would have responded to him if he had, I'm sure. A girl has to be safe especially when there is a big grassy area, and no one about.

Linda said...

I would have done what you did and continued walking. I might have gone back to work and mentioned it and seen if someone would go back with me to see if he needed help, but that is after the fact. I don't think you need to feel guilty, With all the ugly stories out there, you do need to protect yourself. I for one am glad you had the sense to walk away.. Linda

fuzzandfuzzlet said...

OMGOSH it must be the day for such situations.

Today I took my son to Tae Kwon Do. His Dojang is next to a bar and grill. They kind of share a parking lot. After I dropped my son off I was driving in the parking lot in front of the bar a guy kind of flags me down. I stop and roll my window down about an inch.

This guy offers me 5 bucks to give him a ride downtown. The minute he sees refusal in my eyes he ups the offer to 10.00. I say tell him no and drive away.

Now of course in this day and age there is no way you can do such a thing, but my fear was complicated by the fact I had just been thinking about an Ann Rule novel. In fact I was on my way to the dentist office where I had left the book last week when my kids had check ups. In fact I was trying to remember exactly what was taking place where I left off ( as I had started another Ann Rule while waiting to get this one back)

I think as what freaked me out the most was the fact that this guy did not look like someone that would need to beg for a ride. He was clean cut, well dressed. I remember noticing how clean his hair looked. Very Ted Bundy lol.

All evening I have thought of this. The fact is one of two things are true. Either this guy truly was down on his luck and truly did need a ride, or he truly was trying to lure women into an unsafe situation.

In your case I would have done the same thing. I kind of think that if the tears were real he may have wanted to be left alone.

Julie said...

It could have just been very well a ploy and he could have harmed you. You just never know! Don't be so hard on yourself, I don't know that I would have either. Just say a prayer that he gets the help he needs.

Special K said...

Not sure if you know, but I'm a police officer. And I'm telling you to let go of your guilt. You ABSOLUTELY did the right thing!

If you're alone with no other people even in the immediate area NEVER approach a strange man for any reason. NEVER! If someone appears hurt, call 911. But don't ever approach a man and put yourself in a situation that could end badly.

It's sad that our society has made us afraid of each other. But unfortunately, that's the reality of the world we live in these days.