What is the Right Thing?

I did a thing tonight and it pains me.

This week I had to give an hour-long presentation to our college-aged intern on the finer points of lithic analysis, so I spent most of the week on that. Once I gave the presentation on Friday, I turned my attention to an article I’m enjoying writing, on my experience with BMX.

I was looking forward to working that again tonight. And then I was walking to my favorite little dive bar to write and I saw some shit that bothered me deeply.

At the corner of Park and Couch in the park blocks, I saw a woman who was incapacitated. She was a very large person, sitting down, and she was repeatedly falling over. She couldn’t stay upright. I watched for about 10 minutes. One time she tried to stand without success.

The reason I was upset about this more than usual is because she was with a 5 or 6-year-old child. He milled about her, uncertainly. Sitting down, waiting, carrying bags around her. He was clearly with her, and clearly not willing to leave.

So I called 911. I don’t like to get involved. I don’t pretend to know what anyone’s particular situation is like. I don’t want a child to be separated from his mother. I watched for as long as I could to try to understand the situation. In this case, I feared for the child’s safety. I feared that he might step into traffic. I worried that he may not have eaten or had anything to drink today. I worried very much that he was worried about this woman.

911 answered and was very gentle with me. I told them that I was concerned about the child, and that I thought maybe the woman needed an ambulance. They said: “Does she have a black top and black pants on, child is maybe 6 years old?” I was surprised and said yes, and they said “we already have officers on the way.” Apparently I was not the only one who was concerned about the situation. It was a huge relief to know that I may have done the right thing, since someone else had done the thing before me.

I’m really terrible at knowing when I’ve done the right thing. I don’t know what’s wrong with me in that regard. I mean, I know that a child in that situation is in a circumstance that should be fixed, but is it dire?

I’m mostly worried about the consequences. I’m keenly aware that my involvement might result in this kid having a long night. I’m aware that the reporting of this incident by myself and others might result in his placement in foster care. I could really care less about the feelings of his mother, or caregiver, or whatever she was. She’s a person, and she’s not unimportant, but she did a very bad thing. I hope she is OK, but I loathe her for neglecting this child. I hope he gets the care he needs.

Anyway, all of this pissing into the wind is to say that I may have fucked over a little kid tonight, and I hope he’s OK and fed and safe and maybe even sleeping at this point.

Did I do the right thing?

2 thoughts on “What is the Right Thing?

  1. The woman might have been diabetic, unable to get insulin. You never know. That’s not at all to say you did the wrong thing. Doing something with a motivation of caring is always better than walking past out of indifference. Indifference will kill us all.


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