When Kindness Becomes Stupidity

by Kelly on August 27, 2008 · 42 comments

in Inspiration. Happiness. Self Improvement, Life. People. News

kindness-can-be-stupid.JPG

There’s been a bit of talk about kindness in the blogasphere lately. Mark Hayward of My Tropical Escape is talking about how kindness can make the world a better place at Zen Habits and Al at 7P Productions generated a great discussion about the same topic last week with “Why should I help you?”.

If you have read my article, The Power of a Kind and Generous Soul, you’ll know my mom instilled in me the importance of being warm, compassionate and helpful to others. I was taught to always give out what I wanted to get back. And since I enjoy harmony, enthusiasm and generosity in life, I try to deliver that to others as much as I can.

The Downside of Being Kind

We don’t like to talk about it but we all know it does exist. If we are kind, we can be used and taken advantage of because of our generosity. In worse case scenarios, we may even be so kind and trusting that we actually bring harm to ourselves.

The internet is full of stories of people who formed online friendships or relationships and were then conned out of money or even lured to their deaths. Cynics may scoff these people are gullible, but I see it more that they were kind without the self esteem to draw appropriate boundaries, or maybe they exercised poor judgment and paid the price.

If we believe in the virtue of kindness, where do we draw the line? How do we know that we are being kind versus being stupid?

I’ve asked myself these questions a bit this week because on Monday night I did something that some people may see as kind and generous, and others could argue was risky and irresponsible.

I Let A Stranger Into My Car

It was a pretty standard night. I cooked dinner, badgered my son to eat, and then we drove down to the train station where we pick up his dad from work. Usually MusicMan gets to our meeting place first and we just head right off, but Monday night his train was late, so I parked on a side street to wait.

It was dark, but there was plenty of traffic and the train station is well lit, so I felt perfectly safe despite the rather run-down motel nearby. Bunny and I were listening to music and waiting when I noticed a young woman walking unsteadily up the sidewalk from the direction of the motel. She was about 19 and dressed like she was going for a night out.

I paid her no mind until she suddenly stopped beside my car and tapped on the front passenger window.

Surprised, I stared at her a moment before lowering the window a bit. My first thought was she’s going to ask me for cash and I was mulling over my answer when she fixed wide bloodshot eyes on me, clutched at the window with shaking hands and asked me to drive her to a suburb about five minutes away.

I really hadn’t expected that and didn’t know what to say. She starts telling me that she’s just got into a huge fight with some people and they tried to hurt her and pull her into an alley. I immediately sympathize with her, but tell her I’m waiting for someone.

She begs me to take her now and I look over my shoulder, hoping MusicMan would just get here already. But he’s nowhere in sight and she’s pleading, so I say yes I’ll drive her, but after my husband arrives. She is grateful and asks if she can get in the car while we wait. A little worrying voice starts up in my head, but she’s already opening the door and the sight of her is so pathetic I agree.

The minute she’s in the car, Bunny pipes up from the back seat with a sunny “Hi” and I realize his presence really makes me a whole lot less comfortable with this situation.

Here’s why.

She was on drugs. I used to be a steady user myself. I know the signs. And she wasn’t just mellow high, she was agitated and incapable of holding a train of thought. She must have asked me my name four or five times and her jitters were so bad I doubt it was from fear alone.

Once she continued the story of her attackers they were no longer strangers, but friends of friends she’d been partying with in the motel and things had got out of control (as they do with drugs).

All this had me watching her like a hawk wondering if this was a scam to divert my attention so her friends could jump me, or if she was a nut case who posed an actual threat herself.

The upside was MusicMan was due any minute and the girl was a slip of a thing, probably 15-20kg lighter than me and 20cm shorter. I was wearing my chunky rings and I’m pretty strong, so I wasn’t worried about dealing with her one-on-one if necessary.

But none of this changed the fact that my 4 year old was in the back and I felt like I had created a less than safe environment for him.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. MusicMan came and told her to stay in the front so he could sit with Bunny in the back. We survived an awkward conversation and a weird sexual advance, drove her home and heaved a huge sigh of relief when we dropped her off. MusicMan thought I’d done the right thing by helping her, but we both agreed she was a girl with serious problems.

Was I Kind or Stupid?

As I write this, I still am unsure I agree with MusicMan. With hindsight I know she posed no threat so I’m glad I helped her. I was a vulnerable young girl twenty years ago and people have helped me out of some bad situations in my life, particularly in my drug using years. But still it doesn’t sit well with me. Having my child in that situation scared me.

I don’t know if I did the right thing, I really don’t.

What do you think? Did my kindness make me do something stupid?

Photo by jungle/arctic

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Do You Take Precautions?
08.29.08 at 12:34 pm

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa Wilder 08.28.08 at 1:16 am

There are some situations in life where even the most remote possibility of it ending badly isn’t worth the risk.
Where the potential consequence is simply too high. I think the event you describe is one of those.

I am so glad that it ended okay and I hope, for your sake and your child’s, that you won’t take the risk should a
similar situation present itself in the future.

Lisa Wilder’s last blog post..Don’t Believe Everything You Think

2 mark 08.28.08 at 3:23 am

Hi Kelly - I must say, you managed to raise my eyebrows with that one! I think in that situation you have to do what you feel comfortable with (while not endangering your son). Clearly you wanted to help her so as an alternative maybe you could have paid for a cab for her (if that was even an option)? We (I) would never call you stupid. :)
mark’s last blog post..Where are you? Why I am on BLOGCATION!

3 Monica 08.28.08 at 3:51 am

Kelly,
I can totally relate to your empathy for the girl and in the same situation I’m sure similar things would be running through my mind. I remember being vulnerable in my twenties and people also helped me. With children present I do think different decisions are necessary, even in the moment of wanting to do right by someone. HOWEVER, I think we are constantly making split second judgement calls in situations like these and while it would be easy for me to say that I would have made a different choice, I can’t say that because there are so many variables to the situation. I think you were already assessing the situation (having previous experience with users) and you determined the risk was low. The situation is always more about us than them though, so maybe this situation is highlighting some area in you where you have an opportunity to grow?

4 Vered 08.28.08 at 5:32 am

Wow. This is one of the most thought-provoking posts I have read in a LONG time.

It made me remember the scene in Silence of the Lambs (or am I confusing it with a different film?) when the victim helps the murderer to put something into his van - he manipulates the situation so that she gets into the van and then he abducts her.

It also made me remember the saying “no good deed goes unpunished”.

My thoughts on the subject:

Your first priority must be you and your loved ones. You should never risk yourself, or your loved ones, to help a stranger. It’s not a pretty thing to say, but this is my own personal rule.

I think part of the problem is that unfortunately, many good deeds these days do get punished. All the cases of highway attacks (where someone pretends to be in trouble and when you stop to help them, his friends attack you) etc. Or, as you say, people who build online - or offline - trust and then use it to con people out of their money.

You sound more trusting than I am. I am quite suspicious. It takes a long time to gain my trust and even then I am always careful. Maybe it’s my personality, maybe it’s being a lawyer for several years and seeing the dark side of human nature.

While I do believe that most people are good, I also believe that there’s enough evil in this world that we need to be very careful, and always assume the worst.

Vered’s last blog post..Obsessed With SEO?

5 SpaceAgeSage 08.28.08 at 5:55 am

You did the right thing, for the right reasons. Did you notice that no really big warning flags came up for you and that only your kid’s presence caused you any real discomfort? Your intuition and experience gave you the insight to “read” the situation quite well. You understood her situation, your abilities, and that your “backup” was coming. As you look back, you know you were not in danger — you were cautious and smart enough to be alert, but relaxed and ready. By following your gut instincts and being wary, but wise, you may have saved her life. I can’t say everyone should do as you did, because every situation is different, including a person’s ability to read the situation. There is no downside to being kind. Being stupid, unaware, and a doormat is not being kind, and you were none of these.

SpaceAgeSage’s last blog post..Where is your real power?

6 Terence Chang 08.28.08 at 6:46 am

Kelly:

I have been doing charity works for years. Our master always told us to “Protect yourself first.” You need to help other by helping yourself first.

We often deliver to homeless people and donate money to them. However, many people take this as we richer people own them. Sometimes we are facing unknown danger. So we stop send foods to certain areas. We want to help people, but we have to do this for long term. If we can’t keep ourselves in a good shape, we won’t be able to help others.

So you need to think twice before you give out your helping hand. I often ask questions to myself before do so.
1. Can I afford to help other at the moment?
2. Do they really need help?

Take a good care!

Terence Chang’s last blog post..Change to fast lane in one year

7 Urban Panther 08.28.08 at 6:59 am

I think our automatic response is to help someone in distress, and I totally understand your desire to help, feeling you should help, and but feeling worried sick about helping. Hard to call to make, eh? The Lion just told me a story involving a co-worker of his. To make a long story short, this gentleman gave an elderly man a boat ride to where the man said he was camped. But it ended up being much further away, and the old guy got more and more agitated and agressive. The co-worker and his friends (he was not alone) ended up phoning the coast card. Turns out the old boy was presumed dead! Since MusicMan was arriving any second, I get your call. If you were alone with Bunny, I think the call would be to lock the car and phone the police to assist the young lady. Definitely a tough call.

Urban Panther’s last blog post..A sacred space

8 Mary@GoodlifeZen 08.28.08 at 8:19 am

Hi Kelly!
I think the most important thing is that kindness has to be directed not only to others, but equally toward oneself. When we do that, we can get a better handle on whether to act on a kind impulse or not.
Here my post on kindness that explains that:
http://goodlifezen.com/2008/08/05/what-everybody-ought-to-know-about-kindness/

9 Roz Mitchell 08.28.08 at 8:51 am

Kelly yes I have been in situations where I question afterwards wether it was the right thing to do.
At the time you saw a person in need because you had been there in your life so you acted on that moment .
The one thing that goes through my mind is it wasnt only you at risk but your son .It isnt always what it seems as Im sure alot of these questions where and are still going around in your head.I am a great believer in course and effect .Each situation when arises needs to be dealt with differently.
Because I had my child in the car I would of said yes I will drive you ,but you must wait till my husband arrives and I then I will let you in and drive you.Then if she was to of got angry you would of been able to drive off.First all my doors would of been locked while waiting and she could not of opened the door.
Glad you and your son were safe.

10 Jay 08.28.08 at 9:30 am

I think it’s a crying shame that we have to feel so vulnerable when we are asked to help someone so obviously in need. Society is sick indeed when people who have been attacked ,or are under threat, can no longer rely on shouting ‘help!’ in a crowded place, in the hope that someone will help them. How many people are mugged, hurt or killed because no-one dared to stop and intervene or help by driving them away?

Having said all that, it IS necessary to protect ourselves, and to be willing to make split second decisions. Yes, you did put your son in danger in a way, but you also taught him something valuable - that it is sometimes the right thing to do to take a risk to help out a fellow human being in need. Yes, you could have been robbed, or hurt or assaulted. You were in a self-limiting situation, and in a busy place, which was well lit, so the risk was reduced. Sometimes all you can do is make that decision, limit your risk and hope.

I have stopped to help strangers, and given them lifts in my car. I picked up a biker once, who had broken down - what encouraged me to do so was his reluctance to impose upon me, and he was a perfectly nice man. I am much more wary these days, but if nothing else, I will ring the police if I can’t - or don’t think it’s safe to - stop.

Jay’s last blog post..Conversation with the K9s

11 Jenny Mannion 08.28.08 at 11:04 am

Hi Kelly, Wow I was WITH you during that story and can just imagine feeling exactly like you did… I don’t think you’re stupid at all — you are kind and caring and wanted to help a young woman who obviously needed it. Yes, when our kids are involved our mommy instincts go in over-drive and maybe in hindsight you could have told her she had to wait outside the car until your husband got there…. But everything turned out okay and you helped someone in need and you acted as Space Age Sage said out of instinct and you did not feel any danger until she was in the car next to Bunny. If she had been on something violent like LSD and banging on the windows or even “felt dangerous” to you — you would not have let her in that car. There’s no right or wrong answer — yes, we have to put our children’s safety first… but you helped someone and that should not go unnoticed. I, like you didn’t always use the best judgment in those early years and am very grateful I was as lucky as I was to get through it all okay– and that sometimes was due to the help of strangers. You were kind Kelly and you made someone’s night a whole lot better by being kind. She was very fortunate you were there. Love, Jenny

Jenny Mannion’s last blog post..7 Reasons The Law of Attraction “Isn’t Working for You”

12 Kelly 08.28.08 at 11:18 am

Everyone, thanks so much for your comments. I’m really busy today so I can’t reply to you all right now, but I will get to you!

@Lisa
Thanks for writing me. I agree with you that some risks are just not worth opening the door on (there’s a pun for you hey!). In this situation I definitely didn’t feel that was the case. She was barely more than a kid and a skinny one at that. I did have a good look to make sure no one else was around and the fact that my hubby hadn’t called me meant the train wasn’t very late and MusicMan was going to be there any minute. If he hadn’t been it would have been a completely different story. Guns are also illegal in Australia under most circumstances and are rarely an issue in crime except for big drug gang related shootings, so I didn’t have to worry about her being armed.

@Mark
Yes, if it had been a young man in trouble I probably would have given him $10 and told him to get a cab on the main road behind me.

@Monica
It did all happen very fast because looking back I should have locked the car doors and told her I’d give her a lift, but she had to wait outside until my hubby came. I did think that at the time - she can’t come in here - but she was in the car before I had a chance to do anything about it. So, you’re right what I take from that situation is man or woman, if someone stops to talk to me in a dark street, I should roll down the window a bit and then lock the car immediately. I was just taken off guard - by having to wait, by her presence, by my concern for her obviously bad state. My empathy definitely over-rode my head. As a mother I need to be maintain my helping hand while being a bit smarter.

@Vered
I know what you’re saying and I understand why you think that way, but I just don’t think I can be one of those people who assume the worst. It goes so completely against my nature. I know you might be thinking I am naive, but it’s not that. I have lived and hung out in plenty of rough, poorer areas in my life. I’ve seen lots of bad stuff and known all kinds of dodgy and psychologicaly damaged people, so I know what exists and I’ve seen life get ugly more than I would have liked. So Id do trust my instincts and they were telling me I was fine, it’s just my worried mother’s head that had a problem. But, as I said above, I could have handled this better and I will take some lessons away from this.

I am also wondering right now if this is one of those issues where your perspective may vary widely depending on where you live. As I said, Australia doesn’t have major crime or gun problems so I think most Aussies would still be willing are to lend a helping hand to people in need. I’m keen to hear Robin’s opinion. Robin, where are you?

Back later when I have time to write more.

Kelly

13 Marelisa 08.28.08 at 11:32 am

@Kelly: Honestly, I would have driven a little bit away, and then I would have called the police. I’ve led a much more sheltered life than you have (from what you say in this post) and my instinct would have been to get out of there and let the cops help her (I realize that being high, she would have been in big trouble with the cops, but that’s a risk you take when you do drugs). But you acted in accordance with your own instincts.

Marelisa’s last blog post..30 Ways to Increase Your Creativity

14 Evelyn Lim 08.28.08 at 11:38 am

You know it’s amazing that I’m reading your story for I experienced a similar one just one week ago.

We were driving home after a party and we noticed a guy on the streets walking unevenly as if he was in a drunken stupor. My husband decided to stop our car a little ahead. He was concerned that the guy would run into an accident from being at a traffic junction and proceeded to get out of the car. I got worried and told him no to. My husband said that it should be alright as he just wanted to check if the guy was sober enough to take a cab home.

I sat waiting for him, with my girlfriend in the car, for 10 minutes. Then, I was shocked to find my husband walking back to the car with the guy!!

I was already seated right in front. My girlfriend was terrified. My husband gestured me to unlock the car for them. I did that.

The guy came into the car at the back and sat next to my girlfriend. My husband said that he needed to send him home. The guy’s story was that he was from Thailand, got drunk and then lost. He did not have the money to take a cab home. His English was very poor and luckily my husband could speak Thai. My husband told me in a hushed tone that the guy had refused money but just said that he needed a ride home.

It was about a 10 to 15 minute drive but it felt like eternity.

I sure know how it feels to have a stranger in the car and my heart thumping away!! I’m not sure if it is the sanest thing to do but I’m glad that nothing happened!

Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Planet Of Dreams

15 Lance 08.28.08 at 12:01 pm

That’s one of those tough situations, where you don’t really know what could happen. That it all turned out ok, it seems like you did the right thing. How do you think you would have felt if you had just driven off? Guilty, maybe. I’d like to think that you did the right thing, and that this world we live in is not so bad for this to still occur. But we hear too much about the opposite. I do recall a time when someone asked me for help, and I drove off. I was around 20. I still remember that to this day, and I specifically remember feeling bad that I hadn’t provided help. We use our best judgement, and do what we think is appropriate. Marelisa had a good solution - to call the police for help. In that case, you’re helping but also protecting yourself from possible danger.Had I been in your situation, with kids in the car, I probably wouldn’t have stopped.

Lance’s last blog post..What Are We Missing?

16 Cath Lawson 08.28.08 at 12:15 pm

Hi Kelly - What a difficult situation to be in. I honestly don’t know that I would have done anything different had I been you. As you said - she was only young and she said she’d been attacked, so I can imagine it would have been quite difficult to say no. And you wouldn’t have felt so vulnerable had your son not been in the car.

I guess we need to go with our instincts in those situations. I’ve often given people the benefit of the doubt when I’ve had a bad feeling on first meeting them - and I’ve usually regretted it further down the line. But it’s not easy when things happen so quickly and as you said she got in the car before you said yes.

It is worrying - as you say - folk have been scammed and worse online. That worries me. There’s quite a few people who blog anonymously. Often we welcome them into our communities without ever really knowing who they are. And I guess that’s a bit dangerous. People like you, or Tim Brownson are pretty open about who you are, so I don’t worry that either of you are going to be Hannibal Lecter’s long lost twin. But what about the folk who aren’t open? How do we know who they are?

Kelly - you have me quite worried now. I don’t think any of us are going to form a close relationship with someone who uses a keyword stuffed name. But we do have people visit or blogs regularly who either have a cartoon type name - or just use a first name and they could be absolutely anyone. And while we can be wary ourselves - what happens when another visitor joins our community? If we appear to trust that person and the new visitor trusts us, she’s more likely to think they will be ok too. But what if they’re not?

Oh well - I’m scaring myself now. I went to bed early as I was having a bad day (sorry - I know I was meant to get back to you - but it was one of those days). And Stuart woke me to tell me I’d got a good price on an ebay sale - so here I am. And now I’m thinking about murder in the blogosphere. I wonder if that would make a good book title?

Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Change The World: Or Is This Weakness Stopping You?

17 charlotte (charmed life) 08.28.08 at 3:21 pm

i think you did the right thing from the start, knowing the situation by observing well, calculating the risks, and knowing how to counteract unwanted possibilities. if it was me, i would suggest an alternative other than letting her in my space because i would not know how to defend myself or how to get out of the situation if something bad happens.

i think kindness becomes stupidity if in the process of showing kindness, you knowingly allow yourself to be abused.

charlotte (charmed life)’s last blog post..Fairs and Affairs in Delaware

18 Robin 08.28.08 at 5:35 pm

Maybe a way of looking at it is to look at how it worked out. It worked out OK, and you were both glad you had helped her (more or less). To me, that would mean you were following your intuition, which would mean it was the best way to go. I think you must have felt that at the time, on some level - because if your intuition was saying NO, you would probably have said a flat NO in the first place.

Each situation is unique, so the way I see it is that all we can do is follow our gut feelings at the time, rather than have rules like “don’t give lifts to strangers”, or whatever.

Frank and I have tended to have different reactions to these sorts of things, but we have come much more into sync lately.

Interesting!

Robin’s last blog post..On Overcoming Obstacles

19 Shelley 08.28.08 at 6:02 pm

I think that ninety-five per cent of the time you have to go with your gut instinct in these random, spontaneous types of situations. (That’s what I’d tell my 18 year old self). Although it may seem dangerous when you later relay the encounter to others, I think you really have to know and trust yourself to do the right thing and that comes with experience. Clearly, you’ve got it lady! xx

20 Al at 7P 08.28.08 at 10:52 pm

Hi Kelly,

You are an awesome person and I’m glad there are people like you. We need more people like you.

I think the general rule is to offer help without endangering yourself, as Terence said. Whether the situation is dangerous is a judgment call - heck, simply crossing the street is dangerous!

I also like Mark’s suggestion of paying for a cab. If there were any police or public worker at the train station that might have been another good alternative, but these are alternatives and if you assessed the situation was not dangerous, then you indeed do the right thing.

Al at 7P’s last blog post..10 Tips for Immediate Productivity Results

21 Charlie Gilkey 08.28.08 at 11:06 pm

You did the right thing, for multiple reasons. You sized up the situation and knew that the girl posed no real danger to you or Bunny. You had back-up. Though there were possibilities that were negative, they were remote.

But you acted on one of the noblest of human instincts to help a perfect stranger who needed your help. And, importantly, you did it in front of Bunny. He learned, in that moment, a) that his Mum is a good person and b) that helping others is what good people do.

Yes, the situation was awkward. But it was not dangerous. Courage lies in the mean between cowardliness and foolhardiness, and you were neither of the extremes. Kindness lies in the mean between self-disrespect and extravagance, and you were neither of those extremes. To be brave and kind to a stranger in need, in front of one’s children, is a noble thing, indeed.

Thanks for sharing with us!

Charlie Gilkey’s last blog post..The Paradox of Fortunate Misfortune

22 chris 08.29.08 at 12:50 am

You went with your instincts and no one should fault you for that even if things didn’t go right. It’s your nature to be nice and caring so I guess this is the burden that you must carry for the rest of your life… ;)

My wife and I have taken in teenagers before who are friends of my children or friends of my children’s friends. We do it because we want our children to see that’s its perfectly ok to help people who are in need. It’s even more important when your help is given when it’s not convenient. This is the true test of kindness. It’s easy to be kind, helpful and generous when it’s convenient or safe.

You did the right thing!

chris’s last blog post..Pennies From Heaven

23 Wendi Kelly Lifes Little Inspirations 08.29.08 at 1:22 am

Wow Kelly,
I have been lurking here for a few days catching up on some back posts and today this one is really a thought provoking post. I can relate to the young girl, You as the mother and You as the woman trying to do a good deed. I think in the end, you were alert, compassionate and on guard and if there was any real danger you would have taken the necessary steps to remove her from your child. sometimes being compassionate is risky, which is why so many people turn the other way. Good for you. I hope that girl gets some help and turns her life around. Amybe the kindness of strangers will be one of the things in a small way that will help her realize some goodness in the world.

Wendi Kelly Lifes Little Inspirations’s last blog post..Wide-Eyed Walking

24 Shilpan | successsoul.com 08.29.08 at 5:07 am

Kelly - I’m going to scare you with a real story. A friend of mine was involved in a similar situation when I was doing my master’s here in US at Penn State. He tried to help a homeless guy and it turned out that after a short drive, he was kicked out of the car by this homeless person. Police found the car next day wrecked 30 miles away from our dorm. he also lost his wallet with over $100 and few credit cards. It is hard to help a stranger.

Shilpan | successsoul.com’s last blog post..10 Simple Habits to Help You Look Younger and Live Longer

25 Kelly 08.29.08 at 9:38 am

Hi everyone

Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments on this matter. I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to share your thoughts and a lot of you have said some really wise things about how one could deal with this situation. Normally I respond to everyone individually, but I hope today you’ll forgive me for replying in general because I’m a bit over committed this week and I just don’t have the time. I do value each and every one of you though. :)

Writing this post has given me a real chance to process the situation outside of my head and what I can now see with this distance is I was never in danger, but my survival instincts were alerted by the speed with which the whole event took place and then my mommy radar registered that having Bunny in the backseat was not ideal in this situation. From the moment she approached me to the moment MusicMan turned up was only about 1-2 minutes.

The fact is MusicMan ALWAYS calls me if the train is running late. He didn’t so I knew he was coming any second, and I didn’t lock the doors because I was parked a few metres down from a main road and had only just stopped when the girl started walking up and then tapped on the window. And while drug user might make people think dangerous crack head, she wasn’t. She was just a normal and very pretty girl who needed help and was scared silly. Was she on drugs? Yes, most definitely, but I did not know how high she was until she was in the car and trying to have a conversation. And to be honest, if you have not had much experience with drugs you may not even have realised her rambling and agitation was drug induced. So then it comes down to the question, do we help a teenage girl in trouble, and I would like to think that most people still think that is a good idea.

Mark’s advice about a cab was a smart one and this is what I would have done if MusicMan hadn’t been about to turn up.

Marelisa’s advice to call the cops I would have done if the person had been older or obviously a drug addicted mess.

Roz’s advice that I lock my doors and make the girl wait outside until MusicMan comes is what I will be doing next time. From now on, if my hubby is not at our meeting place and I have to stop, I will be locking the car doors.

Terence, Chris and Evelyn (and your generous hubby) - your stories inspire me and I like to think there are lots of people out there who help others when it is not convenient or easy to do so. Chris, what you said really resonated with me about the value of being kind when it is not easy.

And Charlie, your comment makes me feel even more so that I did the right thing according to my value system. I do believe in reaching out and if necessary shouldering the woes of my fellow human beings and I want Bunny to grow up with the same sense of responsibility.

Thanks again everyone.
Kelly

26 kailani 08.29.08 at 12:59 pm

I think about this every time I see someone walking because their car got stranded, or walking home from the bus stop. I wish I could just stop and offer a ride but you just never know these days.

kailani’s last blog post..Is It My Birthday . . . Again?

27 John Hoff - eVentureBiz 08.30.08 at 2:39 am

Hello Kelly. Wow that’s quite a story. I’m a very kind and generous person, however, maybe it’s because I live in Las Vegas, NV (high crime rate) that I’m like Vered. I’m very cautious and suspicious when it comes to strangers. I don’t trust them. Not one bit. Problem is, even though I don’t trust them, I still sometimes think everyone has the same moral standards that I have put forth for myself, which clearly isn’t the case. So I’m always at odds with this kind of issue.

In your situation, I probably would have told her I’ll call for help and then call 911. I’ve never done drugs so I might not notice the signs as quickly as you. I tend to believe people are telling the truth WAY too easily. I dunno, I think if my kid were in the car, I wouldn’t have opened the door. If it was just me, I probably would have helped her out like you did.

Just think of it like this. What could have happened could of. So what will you do with that knowledge?

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28 Marc J. 08.30.08 at 5:44 am

@ all of you who suggested calling the cops:

If there was ever a way to make the situation worse, that would be it.

Take a young, probably terrified, girl, on drugs and then tell her you’re going to call the cops.

Sounds like a good time, eh?

You don’t know what she’s on, where she’s been for the last couple of hours, what she’s done… the cops aren’t always the answer. When you’re dealing with someone on “that side” of the law, they are (relatively) easy to work with. Telling them you’re going to call the cops turns a very fragile neutral exchange into a hostile one in a split second.

I’ve helped plenty of people out in similar situations, (both that I knew and perfect strangers) if you don’t feel comfortable helping someone, don’t even pull over or make eye contact. Take a lesson from S.W.A.T., the best way to prevent violence is to establish a rapport with the person ASAP. Get them talking, get inside their head, and for christsakes… don’t directly disagree with them!

I’ll end this before I start ranting even more. If I hit a nerve, feel free to send an email.

29 Natural 08.30.08 at 7:16 am

Kelly this is a tough one, but I’m leaning toward the: you did the right thing. It was wise for you to wait for you husband to be there…I probably would not have done this with just my kid alone.

I’m sure I’ve been this trusting of strangers, but not anymore where we are enclosed in something I can’t get out of like my house or car. As an alternative, I might have made a phone call for her and waited with her outside until someone could come get her or find someone with a pick up truck where she can sit on the back of a car and get a ride. You don’t know these day. You hope people have the same heart you do, but there’s no way to tell. Glad everyone made it out okay.

Natural’s last blog post..Here’s To You…and Me

30 Sara at On Simplicity 08.31.08 at 5:10 am

There’s a lot of to be said for instinct. There’s been situations where on paper, what I did was questionable, but turned out okay. I think it’s part luck and part instinct. When you mentioned that you were watching for anything suspicious the whole time, that action there would probably be the difference between danger and mere awkwardness.

Sara at On Simplicity’s last blog post..Three Things You’d Save in an Emergency

31 Bamboo Forest 09.01.08 at 3:11 am

You had me on the edge of my seat with this post.

I tend to think you should not have let her in your car and should not have driven her. What if she had a knife?

The problem is - you don’t know her. You don’t know what her intentions are so you have to make favorable assumptions, assumptions that could cause you harm!

That being said - I am thrilled there was no danger!

You bring up a valid observation, kindness or at least kindness without cautiousness can be dangerous. Kindness is good but not if it puts you in unnecessary risk, of you or your loved ones!

32 Kelly 09.01.08 at 11:46 pm

@Kailani
I feel bad every time I see a car broken down too or a hitch hiker in the rain. Mostly I want to yell out to the hitchers that they’re nuts, but I still fee bad for them. But not enough to pick them up.

@John
Welcome to SHE-POWER and thanks for joining our little discussion. If I lived in Las Vegas believe me I wouldn’t drive the car at night without the doors being locked. But Australia is no comparison really. Not just comparatively low crime rates, but a completely different culture. I’ve never been to Vegas, but if what I’ve heard about it is true it sounds like a crazy place to live. Exciting to visit though. Have you always lived there?

@Mark
Thanks for commenting and yes, I agree with you. Calling the cops for someone on drugs will only lead to a major freak out. But as I mentioned in a comment above she wasn’t some smacked out addict, she was little more than a scared kid who just happened to be high.

@Natural
Yes, what I will change next time is to lock my car doors as soon as I stop and then in this scenario I would have had her outside until Musicman came. But where live and in this particular circumstance both he and I are in agreement that giving a teenager a 5 minute drive home is a relief to her and nothing to us. Particularly with my 6 foot +, muscular hubby around :)

@Sara at On Simplicity
Welcome to SHE-POWER. I am a huge believer in instinct, plus I am very street smart. I’ve lived a colourful life and have traveled the world backpacking in lots of ‘dangerous’ countries. My instincts are experienced, as am I for dealing with trouble. You need to take these factors into account when considering how to handle a situation. Thanks for commenting.

@Bamboo Forest
I think the lesson here is kindness does need to be moderated to deal with every unique situation. There’s no one size fits all solution for relationships and problems, and not all individuals are equipped to deal with things the same way. My approach this time would be altered slightly in the future, but the crux wouldn’t change. I’ve spoken to quite a few friends this week about the situation and most said they would have done the same. I think there is still a tendency here in Oz to come to the aid of people in trouble. We don’t have enough reasons not to, I guess.

Thanks everyone.

Kelly

33 Brenda 09.02.08 at 1:37 am

Superb topic and discussion! I’d have to agree with Mary@GoodlifeZen, “kindness has to be directed not only to others, but equally toward oneself. When we do that, we can get a better handle on whether to act on a kind impulse or not.” Opening your heart (and car) to this girl no doubt made an positive impact on her, but since you had a child in the car especially, you obviously took a risk. I’d like to think that I am a good Samaritan, but I probably would have offered her my cell phone and let her call home for transportation. I’d have stuck around until that transportation arrived. But afterwards, I would have regrets that I hadn’t done more.

Brenda’s last blog post..Finding my personal power

34 daisy 09.03.08 at 7:46 am

your son and your safety should always come first.

35 Chad 09.04.08 at 5:57 am

So, about a decade ago my wife and I are driving along the highway. Usually, alone I stop and help anyone I can. Its Indiana afterall, thats just how we do things. So, this really beat up car is broke down, the hood is up and I see a leg sticking out the door. We’re 30 miles from any service station and then, cell phones were not that common. The wife tries to talk me out of it, but I had a pit in my stomach. so, I stopped and to my shock, its a 9 month pregnant woman all alone. I give her a rid back to her house 10 miles in the opposite direction and on the way she tells us she was due any day. We get her back home and she goes in her house.

2 years later, I go to an interview for a DREAM JOB. Not just a paycheck, but a career in marketing with a large company that paid very well. By this point, I had a new baby of my own and the prospect of goign from 13 an hour to 120,000 a year seemed far fetched but plausable. So, I go in for a “panel” interview and I notice a woman who looks VERY familiar. Yes, after a few minutes I realize its the young lady I’d given a ride to years earlier. She recognized me the second I’d hit the room I’d later find out. While I’m doing well in my interview she pipes up and tells the story. Not only the part I knew, but the part I didn’t. She went into labor within minutes of me pulling away and was able to call her mom to come get her and take her in. Within an hour of being at the hospital her baby was born. She said she’d often wondered if we hadn’t have stopped if anyone would have. She worried her baby may have been born alone in the back of a car with no one to help.

I got the job and it provided a nice life for my family. I’ve moved on to bigger and better things since, but to this day it was the biggest single career step I ever took and it was mainly thanks to this young woman who pushed them to hire me. ONE random act of kindness can impact osmeone more than we think It can also ripple back to us.

In my opinion, you may have done soemthing more wonderful than you could imagine. Maybe she turned her life around at that point after being treated like a human being. You never know.

36 BC Doan 09.14.08 at 11:16 am

This post hits me right to the heart. My kindness has turned into nightmares with a controlling, and obsessive neighbor who thinks she owes me. It has gotten to the point where a restraining order is considered!
Sometimes, kindness has a price tag too!

BC Doan’s last blog post..Pictures for the Second Week of September

37 Louise Pool 09.15.08 at 7:42 pm

Just a short comment to let you know that I think you did absolutely the right thing. Here in the Seychelles, crime (mostly drug-related) is on the rise just as anywhere else, but most people still respond to others with kindness. It’s important to rely on your intuition in such cases. I, too, have done a lot, mixed with all kinds of people and been in many dicey situations, so I can safely rely on my intuition. So far, so good :-). I’ve done things like this with my kids present and have emphasized to them that their intuition is not yet as well developed, so they should err on the side of safety. I do think it’s important, though, that kids are not raised in an atmosphere of fear.

Louise Pool’s last blog post..How Real Are You?

38 Joan 10.17.08 at 10:41 pm

I believe what you did was right. Someone is desperate and needs help, how could one refuse? This is my belief, “There is no one in this world who is evil”, and if we look at a person with eyes of goodness, you will draw goodness out of him/her. Bravo! You saved a life! Who knows what she would have done to herself, if she didn’t receive timely help?
“What you sow, so shall you reap! A seed of kindness, can only bring forth kindness.

39 Sam 10.24.08 at 10:51 am

I think it goes like this. When you are young you have to make the choice on limited experience. If you choose to refuse to be kind that experience never grows more, and you end up living in fear of the unknown. If you choose to help and it goes right, then good things and experiences accrue. If it goes wrong and you survive you have learnt from experience (or a mistake) and will choose better next time. If it goes wrong and you don’t survive you won’t post here, or anywhere. Each time you choose you increase your experience and your intuition or gut-feeling is refined, and more reliable the next time around. So the only choice is whether you want to live in fear, or choose to find out what happens when you don’t….For me, that is no choice ar all, and for all the dodgy situations I’ve found myself in through poor choices, I have never regretted the impulse to help, only sometimes the consequences. All the occasions I have chosen not to help, through fear, I still can remember, and still regret, because I have chosen suspicion over hope, and this limits life which is nothing without a leap of faith in the face of the unknown.

40 Ibti 09.17.09 at 11:33 pm

Really enjoyed reading your story. I feel the exact same way you do. You seem VERY street smart, knowing that it could’ve been a con, etc. People tend to mistaken my kindness for stupidity or weakness. I believe you did the right thing by helping her. However, I would have called 911 or a train security, or another “safe” person, if available. Most importantly, excerise that thing some call “mother’s intiution, gut feeling, sixth sense, whisper from God” to become more aware of it. You can do this by guessing who is calling you without looking at your caller ID, and other practices. People that were in very bad situations have said the “hairs on my neck stood.” right before an attack. If we learn to listen to our gut the hairs would never get the chance to stand hopefully! God bless you and keep your family safe and healthy! “Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” Russian Proverb

41 Pat 05.31.10 at 2:39 pm

I totally agree with Monica - you had the “smarts” to assess the situation and do the right thing - good for you!!
One caveat - why were your doors unlocked? The fact that she could just open your door and get in concerns me. Locking them and thereby not alllowing her the option of getting in until and unless YOU decided it was okay. That being said, I still think you did the right thing - you may possibly have saved her life and if she was myself or my daughter I would be blessing you every day!

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