I wasn’t sure if he’d been struck or not, but his appearance certainly struck me.
A man was face down on the concrete, his body contorted in such a way that told me his position wasn’t intentional. It looked like he simply crumbled — his body was in a heap.
Nobody had pulled over to wait near him as far as I could tell, but I assumed that someone had for sure called the police to alert them of this man’s situation. He was in plain view. Morning commuters by the hundreds were flying by. Even I continued driving, just like everyone else.
And then I stopped a block later. Was I just going to keep driving? Of course not.
I imagined hearing a news story about a dead man found on a sidewalk in broad daylight, and I imagined the uproar over nobody checking on him. I imagined his devastated family wanting answers. I retrieved my phone from my purse and called 911.
Even if someone already had called, what’s the harm in calling again? A life could be hanging in the balance, and that life needed assistance.
I told the 911 operator I saw the man on the northwest corner of Beach and Trask.
“So what street is he on?”
“Um…both. It’s a corner. He’s on the corner,” I said.
“Oh. Well, is he a transient, by chance?”
The question confused me. Did it matter? He’s a person — a human being. He has a name. And if your job is to protect and serve, I can’t imagine how that question is relevant.
Even if transients were less deserving of assistance, which they aren’t, that logic would reason that the non-transient public should naturally be kept safe from him — in which case assistance of some form is still needed.
But regardless of his status.
So, please — just send someone out to check on the man, face down on the concrete, who clearly is out of place during morning rush hour. The scene doesn’t add up. At all.
How did 305 people escape from a Boeing 777 following a crash landing in San Francisco? They helped each other. They spoke up and gave their fellow passengers a hand. They didn’t ask whether someone was sitting by the window, in the middle or on the aisle before helping. They didn’t ask whether a person in need had been seated in first class or not.
They didn’t ask these things because they don’t matter.
I can see how getting the full picture to pass along to an officer is important. But in situations like this morning, there should only be two buckets of people: those who need help, and those who don’t. The man fell into the former bucket, period. Everyone in that plane was in that bucket, too.
Tonight I am thankful for making the call I know I needed to make — for me, and for him. I don’t help as often as I know I can — and surely I turn away intentionally at times, but we live in a world where doing the right thing is a rare thing. Today it felt good to make it a little less rare than it was yesterday.