The other day, when I was going to pick up my kids in the evening, a lady waved for me to stop my car. I was just a few doors away from the babysitter’s house and the lady seemed to be desperate for help.
So I stopped my car and wound down my window a little bit (just enough to hear her). According to the lady (who looks to be in her 30s), she tried to register herself into an old folks home but was rejected because she was much too young. So the manager of the home dropped her off at the roadside with all her belongings, which looked like quite a lot of stuff. The lady asked me to help by driving her to the bus stop. She said that she was unable to carry all the stuff with her.
I was a bit skeptical as I was thinking why the manager did not drop her off at a bus stop instead of the roadside of a quite housing area with so many luggages. Also, why did a lady who is in her 30s tried to register herself into an old folks’ home? I did not ask the lady any of the questions but I explained to her that I had to pick up my kids and that we are rushing off for their tuition classes. Moreover, my car boot was full and I would not be able to fit any more luggages into it. She seemed so desperate and said that she will wait for me to come back for her after my kids finished their classes. Even when I said that I had to drive my kids to Puchong (and we were at Subang Jaya at that moment), she said she is still willing to wait as she had waited there very long for someone to help her but no one seemed to want to help her out. She was sweating and tired and she really looked like she needed help.
I was seriously tempted to drive her to the bus stop but I was running late and had to pick up my kids first. And with my kids in the car, I did not really want to risk being car-jacked or something like that. As the lady was practically just 2 doors away from the babysitter’s house, I had no choice but to say that I will check if the babysitter is able to help her. I quickly parked my car in front of the babysitter’s house and rushed in. I told the babysitter that there was a lady outside who needed help but the babysitter quickly told me to be careful and not bother about her as it may be a trick. Of course, my kids were there and heard our conversation. They kept asking me what happened and I was reluctant to tell them that there was a lady outside who needed my help but I could not help her as I was afraid that she might be a bad person.
Meanwhile, the lady kept looking into the house and the babysitter quickly closed the door and asked my kids to stay away from the windows. When we were ready to leave, we practically rushed into the car. The lady came over again but the babysitter quickly told her that we were busy and were unable to help.
All these really made me think, what if the lady was genuinely and desperately asking for help and I just ignored her because I was afraid? I think this is the case with most people nowadays. Perhaps it is not because we do not want to help or that we lack publich empathy but because we are afraid to do so? What if I was the one who needed help but no one came forward because they are afraid?
There was one time when my family was stranded in the middle of a very busy road. My husband, my 2 kids, together with my mother-in-law and I were stuck in our car which has stalled (due to an empty gas tank, thanks to my dear husband!). There were so many cars around us and no one stopped to help push the car to the side. Most of them just looked at us and drove off. Some even looked annoyed that our car was blocking the road. After several minutes, an Indian guy riding a motorbike stopped at the side to come to our aid. Another man, a Malay man driving a Kancil, also stopped his car at the roadside and came to help us. After they helped push the car to the side, the Indian man rode off but the Malay man stayed and asked if my husband needed help to go to the petrol station to buy some petrol. So the kind man and my husband drove off the the nearest petrol station while we waited in the car. When they came back, the man wanted to drive off but my husband stopped him to thank him and offered him a bit of money to get himself some dinner. We were truly grateful to the 2 men who had taken their time off to help a family of strangers. If not for them, my husband would definitelty have a difficult time pushing the car by himself and also going to the petrol station.
Anyway, I was thinking, when do we decide that a stranger really needs help or they are just trying to trick us of our prized possessions, or worse, run away with our precious children? I suppose it really depends on our gut feelings and instincts but if I were with my kids, I would most probably not take the chance and put my kids at risk.
I think all of us had heard of the endless stories where conmen even used children and old ladies to trick us. The heartless people will go to all lengths into deceiving us and use our guilt and conciousness to fall for their traps.
So how do you teach your kids public empathy? How do you explain to them the differences between genuine call for help and the many thousands of conmen out there who are targeting unsuspicious and kind-hearted people? If all of us treat everyone with suspicion, who is going to help those who are really in need?