Stepping in

This morning I was dropping my daughter off at school. As I was watching her little back pack bobbing up and down while she ran across the grass (one of my happy moments), I saw out of the corner of my eye, a little boy on his knees next to an adult. I thought “Poor kid, must have fallen down.” But he didn’t get up. The adult started pulling on him and managed to get him up for a few feet before he limp noodled again and was back on the ground. At this point I felt bad for the adult. My attention went back to my daughter, just disappearing around the side of the school. When I looked back at the boy and his adult I saw that they were yanking him by his arm, trying to drag him into the school. I was shocked and appalled. While I was sitting there shocked and appalled, the adult thumped the boy on the back twice and started yanking again.

I said out loud to myself, “Am I really just going to sit here?” So I didn’t. I got out of the car, pulled my 3 year old son out of his car seat and went to help. By the time I got there, the boy was running back to the car and the adult was gone. I followed the boy to the car and saw him get in safely. I went to look for the adult. When I found her, I discovered that she was his 70 something grandmother and she was sobbing. She didn’t know what to do. She had gone to find the teacher and she didn’t know where he’d gone. The boy was saying he was too tired and nothing she did could get him into the school. She wasn’t strong enough to pick him up and take him into the office. I vaguely patted her on the back and said it would be okay. I told her he was in the car and we went to check on him.

He was huddled in the back seat shaking. His kindergarten teacher came out and there were a lot of minutes spent trying to cajole him out of the car.When it didn’t work, I went to the office to try to find the social worker. But they were in a class, the sub hadn’t shown up and the principal wasn’t in yet. Back at the car, we all tried to talk the boy out of the car. I tried, the grandma tried, the teacher tried and eventually a “behavior specialist”? from the school tried. He wouldn’t budge. When I talked to him, I asked him if he was tired, sad or scared. He said, “I’m tired! I can never fall asleep!” My heart broke for him. I learned he was switching houses every other week and I knew that could make for a lack of routine. Eventually, the grandmother pulled him out of the car. There was nothing else I could do, so I put my very cold 3 year old back in our car and watched as the behavior specialist pulled him (less forcefully than the grandmother) into the school to talk in her office.  I cried as I drove home.

I am not sure what I should feel. Heart break for the kid, frustration for his obstinance, empathy for the grandmother, consternation for her behavior, anger at the school for not being prepared for this kind of situation, proud of myself for trying to help, ashamed that I didn’t try sooner, and curious if my actions were more interfering than helpful.

I’ve never been in this sort of situation before. A very serious situation where someone needed my help. My sense of kindness and duty is very often at war with my very strong concern for appropriateness. Where is the line between when I should get involved versus when I should just let it go. Who’s job is it to let me know where that line is? In any given situation, would a person be appreciative of my help or annoyed that I butt in.

These are questions I’ve asked myself for a very long time. I’ve always wondered what I would do if I saw someone being hurt or mistreated in front of me. I am glad that I didn’t just sit there, no matter how long it took me to get off my butt. I feel like I passed the test of character, maybe not with flying colors but passed none the less. I am still devastated at the position this poor sad and tired boy, and the frustrated, upset and helpless grandmother were put in this morning.

Now, I know that I will not always be a bystander. That I can be moved to help. I’m glad that I’ve learned this lesson and I hope and will strive to be quicker to step in next time.

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