Last weekend I was walking with a friend in the Crocus Hill/Cathedral Hill neighborhoods of St. Paul. We were enjoying the elegant mansions, quiet streets, gorgeous fall views, and great conversation when it all came to a screeching halt.
Ahead of us we saw a young woman, who had been jogging, pull up short next to a tiny, elderly woman whose face was covered in blood. It was one of those shocking moments that causes the brain and body to stall out momentarily. Once our brains kicked back into full gear and the adrenaline surged, we jumped into action.
We asked how we could help. The young woman explained the elderly lady could not speak English and she wasn't sure what to do. We deliberated briefly and sent the young woman sprinting off to her home a few blocks away to get first aid supplies. In the meantime, my friend and I attempted to communicate with the elderly lady. Through gestures, smiles, and a few words understood, we were able to discern she had tripped and fallen on her face, knocking out several teeth, but she was otherwise okay. Through gentle hands on her back and soft smiles and awkward introductions, we were able to calm her down, help her clean up with the arrival of the first aid supplies, and drive her home in the car the young woman had driven back with the first aid supplies.
Once the elderly lady was safely home, my friend and I resumed our walk, talking about what we had just experienced. We each had the same two observations that struck a very deep chord. One, many people noticed what was happening and then deliberately pretended not to notice and went on their way without a word. And, two, we could not comprehend how we could have done the same.
Sure, maybe the people who pretended not to notice the bloody elderly lady thought we had it under control, but the reality is it only takes a moment to ask, "Is everything okay?" And, yes, maybe some people truly didn't notice, however, that might be more a commentary on how very unaware our inward-focused, self-protective, technology-driven lives have made us. Finally, it might be okay to be uncomfortable and stay out of a frightening situation, however, an elderly woman with a bloody face and two younger women sitting with her quietly should not be frightening.
I came away from that experience more convinced than ever that kindness never fails and when in doubt, always choose kindness over fear. We have become so fearful in our world that we have shut down our ability to discern how to reach out to one another while remaining safe. We need to get back into a realistic and logical space where we engage our logical brains allowing us to actively think through potentially frightening situations to determine if we can safely extend kindness.
The bottom line is this world needs as much kindness as we can give. Kindness will never fail, no matter what the response. Even if kindness is met with skepticism or cynicism, we never know the long-term impact of a kind action.