Helping strangers…smart or stupid?

The other day when I was driving to work, I saw a man walking up the on ramp by my house.  My first thought was “I wonder if I should stop and give him a ride.”  My second thought was “Wait a minute; he could be a serial killer.”  My first thought is always “I wonder if that person needs help.”  But I watch too much Criminal Minds because now I second guess myself even if the person does need help.

I don’t know if it was the way I was raised, the small town “help your neighbor” mentality or because I’m from Iowa.  Or maybe it’s because I always look for the good in people.

I grew up in a small Iowa farming town of about 8,000.  We never locked the house up, we didn’t lock our cars and lots of times when I went to a neighbor’s house, I just walked right in.  We would go to the grocery store then run an errand downtown and we would leave our car unlocked with the groceries visible.  No one would even touch them.

We would leave the keys in vehicles and sometimes if you were out for a walk or on a bike and got caught in a storm, you just “borrowed” a neighbor’s vehicle and returned it later.  For some reason they never thought it was stolen.

Growing up, I would take little trips with my grandparents and they were always picking up hitchhikers.  It was the 70’s and maybe things have changed, but it didn’t feel unsafe.  My grandparents would grill the hitchhiker about their family and background, really got to know them the short time the person was in the motorhome.

I’ve stopped a few times and helped people.  I’ve given strangers rides and I’ve picked up neighbor kids, walking in the cold and ice to the bus stop.  Just this winter I asked a woman if she needed help after driving off the road.  She was by my neighborhood and maybe a block from work.  She didn’t need my help, but I was glad I stopped.

About 12 years ago, I was coming home late at night.  One block from home a car was sitting there like they were lost.

I didn’t even think.  I stopped, got out of the car and walked toward it.  Two guys got out and stayed behind their car doors.  I asked if they needed help.  They were trying to find the airport and had exited too soon.  It didn’t even dawn on me that I could possibly be putting myself in danger.  At the time, I didn’t own a cell phone, and my husband and daughter were fast asleep so I wouldn’t have even been missed until the morning.  The next day I thought “what was I thinking?”  I’m still glad I stopped because they needed help.  But that was probably really stupid.

It’s interesting how society is so much different than it was back in the 70’s.  Now you see someone on the side of the road and you go right on by no matter if they need help or not.  There is a show called “What Would You Do?” where they have different situations to see how people would react.  Many people just watched while others stepped in.  I remember a story a few years ago where an older gentleman fell on the sidewalk and people just kept on walking.  The man laid there for quite awhile before someone stepped in.  What has made society so cynical?  Is it the media with shows like Criminal Minds that makes you look differently at people?  Is it the fact we don’t want to take the time to get involved or do we just think it’s none of our business.

I’ve started using my On Star more and calling when I see an accident.  I would rather take the time to alert the police and have multiple people call instead of no one calling.

So I think I’m going to keep my small town mentality and keep stopping, because if I don’t, will the next person?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat


3 thoughts on “Helping strangers…smart or stupid?

  1. I liked this one. The midwest is so special when it comes to “community”, caring about each other. It is a special place. The times now are a bit scarier. HOwever I think that has more to do with the media telling us everything. Thanks for sharring..Cathy

  2. I picked up 2 people on the side of the road years ago, on my way to Webster City from Omaha. It was an “older” couple (probably 30’s or 40’s then) and they had lots of luggage. It was a tight fit, but they both fell asleep in the back seat and seemed happy for the ride. I probably drove them 100 miles and didn’t think twice. I’m not so sure I would do it now, and really wouldn’t want my kids to do it either!

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