Actions speak louder than words.

I was in town late tonight with my youngest.
As we were parked waiting for my sons bus to arrive,
I noticed a man sitting on the road.
An obviously inebriated man,
who I would assume was one of the many homeless men and women,
who we really only notice at night.

As we sat there my daughter asked,
“Why is that man sitting on the road?”.
“He’s homeless darling”, I replied.
“But why is he sitting there?”, she asked.
“He doesn’t care where he is sitting, I replied,
as he has no home to go to”.

As we sat there watching and waiting,
I became more and more uncomfortable.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/drp/186142856/">drp</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
This man was sitting on the road.
This was not right.

I began to reason that he was not exactly in the most dangerous of spots.
He was close to the footpath and in a parking spot.
It was okay to leave him there.

However he was sitting down, all dressed in black.
It was definitely possible someone might not see him in the dark,
and they could very well pull in at speed and hit him.

My daughter could not take her eyes off him.
Then he began to move.
Shuffling along, still sitting down he slowly moved out.
Out of his “safe” spot and into the road.
A road that was relatively busy.
Slowly he began to shuffle, across the road, still sitting down.

My little one said, “Oh mum, whats he doing, isn’t that dangerous?
I couldn’t answer as there was so much conversation going on in my head.
Should I get out of the car and help him?
How drunk was he?
And the most ridiculous thought of all,
“Why is no one helping him?”.

I was in my car a short distance away.
For some reason I thought it was okay for me to sit where I was,
and it would be the duty of a passerby to ensure his safety!

Again my daughter said, “Mum he could be hit by a car”.
His shuffling stopped, and he sat there.
A bus approached at speed, but was stopped by a man,
who had seen what was happening.
Another man crossed over the road, bent down and helped the shuffler up.
He was not aggressive.
With help he managed to get to his feet,
and was escorted to a safer “seat”.

My son arrived and we drove away.
My daughter told him what she had seen.
As I heard the wonder in her voice I became uncomfortable again.
What example was I tonight?
Why did I sit there.
If this was not a man so obviously homeless would I have done things differently?

We all like to think we are good people.
Thinking it of ourselves is one thing, proving it is another.
Tonight I certainly did not shine.

Actions speak louder than words.

photo credit: drp via photopin cc

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37 thoughts on “Actions speak louder than words.

  1. That’s a really honest post – I think we’ve all been there at times, hesitating, unsure, and then someone else acts before we have the chance to. For what it’s worth, being out with your children and unsure if someone will be aggressive or is drunk – it’s absolutely reasonable to think before you act!

    1. Thanks. Yes I did think of personal danger too, but to be honest even when I did I felt it was only an excuse. Yet I still did nothing. Maybe next time I’ll do better!

  2. I can relate. There have definitely been times when I saw someone in need of help but did nothing because it seemed inconvenient or because I was afraid. Thanks for your honesty.

  3. There have been times when I have failed in doing what I thought was the right thing to do. It’s a difficult place to be in. To be faced with the reality of that man, and the looking in the mirror wondering what to do, which is usually facing our own fears more than it is the reality of what is happening. I appreciate your honesty. It’s how we make our changes. I hope any of us reading this do better the next time. Thanks for such honesty and thought provoking words.

  4. Tric, perhaps if you had not been with your daughter, you may have acted. That little nag in the back of your mind was probably about safety. And yet, I have done the same. I am a small female and have not approached a male. Was it due to safety…or comfort? Yet, the last time, I was haunted by it, and thought the same as you. I vowed to myself that if the opportunity arose again, I would, indeed act. Being aware is the first step. “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.” For me, I must reach out next time.

    1. Thanks Susan. Yes next time I think I will. This man was no danger to anyone only himself. I sat and watched enough to have know that. I also think it was a wasted opportunity to show my daughter the right thing to do.

  5. The fact that you are writing about this means a lot. You wished you had reached out and I’m guessing that next time you will. This is more than many would ever do, unfortunately. I think the most interesting part of your thought process during this was when you questioned whether you would have acted if it was not a homeless person. This is a topic that has so many underlying elements (our fears, our opinions, our personal space, our attitudes, our knowledge of homelessness or lack of it). Sharing your story may inspire others to intervene without second guessing. Great post. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes the fact he was homeless was a key point. I have worked with the homeless and would believe that this would make him less likely to be someone I should fear, yet I sat and did nothing. Definitely not proud tonight.

      1. Please accept this as an idea only.
        The next time you see a homeless person….scratch that….GO to a homeless shelter and do two kinds acts for them, one to make up for for what you wished you had done and another just because I believe this is the real person that you are. Take your daughter! πŸ™‚
        This post is an example of why I am happy to follow your blog.

        1. Thanks I will bear that in mind and if or should I say when I do make up for this I will perhaps let you know. I’m delighted you enjoy my posts. Thanks for commenting and reading.

  6. Whenever I encounter situations such as this I recognise that the person before me, could be me and I them. Any of us might be homeless or emotionally broken one day; would we deserve a helping hand from a stranger? A thought proving post and I suspect uncomfortable reading for some of us here on wordpress.

      1. These situations are never simple, we grow by our life experiences, and you have grown by your reaction to this unfortunate man, and hopefully others have too just by reading your post. Paul

  7. Don’t be so hard on yourself my dear friend. Think of all the people you have reached out to
    and are reaching out to help constantly. You have nothing to feel guilty about. X

    1. Thanks Olive. Luckily you’re not often sitting on the road when I come get you! πŸ™‚ If you ever are I’ll help. My brother commented on facebook “hope you don’t ignore me like that at the wedding next week!” πŸ™‚

  8. You’re right, actions do speak louder than words. But you were on your own with your daughter and you can never tell how a person under the influence of alcohol will react or if the poor guy was suffering from a mental illness. Always a difficult situation but I think it helps if you have another adult or are in a group in case it backfires.

  9. tric – be more gentle with yourself, if you were not such a kind soul this would have not affected you in any way. the fact that it bothers you, you spoke about it and have written and shared it, means that it hit you deeply. this is the lesson to others, and to your daughter. we are always learning and trying to do and be better. the journey continues )

  10. We all like to say that we know what we would do in a situation. Fact is though that no one knows what they will do until they actually face the situation. I’m sure there was a part of you that was concerned with your children’s safety or what they may see if he were to become violent or behave inappropriately. Plus, as much as we don’t like to admit it, we fear things of the unknown. Does that make our actions right? No, but we can certainly learn from those times that we don’t shine. Then, next time (there will almost always be a next time of some sort) we will make it a point to do what is right and may even go above and beyond. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just the point that you wrote this proves that you are a caring and compassionate person.

    1. Thank you. You are right though, we can say we’d do this or that but we never really know. I too am sure there will be some sort of a next time and hopefully I’ll do better.

  11. You are brave to post this, tric – but far too harsh on yourself

    If your daughter had not been with you in the car, I think you would have acted differently

    If it had been a woman rather than a man sitting in the road, I think you would have acted differently

    Sadly, women (and children) are at risk from some men – particularly when alone, at night, in the dark

    Consciously or not, your instinct to help was balanced by an assessment of risk to yourself and your daughter by so doing

    In the same circumstances, many of us would have acted just as you did

    1. Thanks Duncan. I would have hoped to be the “exceptional” one but really only ended up being “ordinary”. I was back in town today and am broke giving to the homeless, guilty conscience! πŸ™‚

  12. I’ve DEFINATELY been in that position before! I know I should do something, but I’m too scared….or worse, too lazy! I end up feeling guilty for a long time! It’s that conscience of ours that gets us everytime!!

    1. Thank you. I did hope I’d think it through by writing but it didn’t work. Wrong is wrong regardless, but I understand why I did nothing now.

      1. Yes, wrong is wrong. But being able to not only see your wrong but expose your wrong to others, in my opinion, on some level rights the wrong.

        On a practical note, this is a dangerous world. You had your child with you and you did not know what the complete picture was that you were watching unfold. Caution is not wrong but necessary.

      2. Yes, wrong is wrong. But being able to not only see your wrong but expose your wrong to others, in my opinion, on some level rights the wrong.

        On a practical note, this is a dangerous world. You had your child with you and you did not know what the complete picture was that you were watching unfold. Caution is not wrong but necessary.

      1. I don’t think you were a coward. You had our kids with you, and I would actually be frightened to approach a homeless person or someone who was very drunk. I would worry about what would happen and how that would affect my child.
        Love the blog ;0)

  13. I beg to differ, Tric. Your first responsibility was to look after your daughter. I felt the same way as you once in Florida – driving down the road towards PF’s workplace with 3 year-old Bigfoot and a very heavily pregnant tum, I saw a car that had come off the road. I parked up, told Bigfoot to stay in the car, and offered help – then realised that the man I was about to offer to take home was drugged out of his eyeballs and should be kept well away. He scared the living whatsits out of me. The police dealt with him, and I was told off by them and PF. Your situation is different, but unfortunately you have to be careful about who you are nice to on occasions.

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