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101 Things in 1001 Days: I Think Twice

Friday, June 02, 2006

I Think Twice

I am in the kiddies play area of the local park, pushing my daughter on the swings when a little boy comes up and stands beside me with his little hands placed on the seat of the swing next to ours.

‘Mum’ he calls ‘mum. I want to go on the swing mum.’ He keeps calling. Mum either doesn’t hear or has chosen to ignore him. She is on her mobile phone.

He looks to me with pleading eyes which all but say ‘will you put me on and push me please?’

My heart melts and I make to put him on. But then, I catch myself and think twice.

‘What if I pick him up and put him on the swing and push him and he falls off and hurts himself?’ I think ‘I will be accused of negligence, of putting him on without the express permission of his parents. I would have to pay his hospital bill. Even worse, I could be sued for hurting their child!’ So I pull back and like his mum, ignore him.

I am in the city centre walking down the high street when I notice an elderly man being harassed by two scruffy looking youths. I look around and I am amazed when I see people looking away or pretending they don’t see.

‘What’s wrong with them’ I think ‘Can’t they see what’s happening? Why doesn’t anyone step in and help the old man. Right then,’ I say ‘if nobody else wants to help him I will’.

I square my shoulders and head towards them but then I catch myself and think twice.

‘What if these two youths turn on me instead? And then nobody helps me? I could be hurt. I could be mugged. Or worse, I could be stabbed!’ So I pull back, drop my shoulders and like everyone else, I walk past and pretend I haven’t seen anything out of the norm.

I am at an indoor swimming pool and I notice this adorable little girl standing all by herself at the edge of the pool looking a little tearful. She has cheeks the size of apples and just as rosy and a face that just draws you in. I remember that I have a sweetie in my bag and decide I will give her that and pick her up to comfort her and ask her where her mummy is. She is just so cute especially with her curls and her little princess bathing suit. I make to pick her up and ask her name and what she is doing here by the side of the pool all by herself. I want to comfort her and make her feel safe.

I take a step towards her with my arms half out stretched but then I catch myself and think twice.

‘What if her mum suddenly pops out of nowhere and rains abuse at me for picking up her daughter? Or thinks I am trying to molest her or worse thinks I may be a pedophile?’ So I step back, put my arms back down by my sides and leave the little girl alone with the tears welling up in her eyes.

These are the signs of the times. I think twice about everything. I live in fear that what I consider a helping hand, a kind gesture, a friendly word can be misconstrued by others and land me into very serious trouble. A kind word may be seen as a stranger’s ploy to spirit a child away, an innocent push of a swing could end in a law suit, helping an elderly man can land me in hospital or in the grave.

So I pull back, I walk away, I ignore.

But inside I am crying.


Blogger paris parfait said...

This is such a sad story! I know what you mean - these days it's damned if you do and damned if you don't. The world is a much more dangerous place and people so often take things the wrong way. It's tragic that society has become this way - more insular, less concerned, except from a distance. I used to think it was just in the US, but I see it in cities in Europe too. But don't feel bad - most people would have behaved the same way, especially as what we see on news and television shows suggest that to help, we may end up in trouble ourselves. It's like that expression "no good deed goes unpunished." Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Friday, June 02, 2006  
Anonymous hundred and one said...

Yes, you're right - we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. It's really sad what this world is coming to. But the funny thing is, it's the opposite in Africa. You just won't think twice about picking a child up, or helping someone out. Funny, the ways of the world.

Saturday, June 03, 2006  
Blogger sheela said...

I'm crying inside too. This is beautiful and challenging. Thank you.

Saturday, June 03, 2006  
Blogger Jemima said...

That is agony, and so true. Charity starts at home and all that, but I don't want to do my bit for making things better by becoming a martyr. So things will stay the same. Which is often horrible for many people.

Saturday, June 03, 2006  

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