I had to go to downtown Harrisburg today. As I left the building I chose a different way to a parking space I don't usually use. Then this happens...
Across the street from the hospital's emergency room a man unsteadily tries to step up onto the sidewalk and falls. I'm roughly a block down the street and there are at least four or five people who turn around and watch this happen and three or four who passed by in the time that I began running towards him.
"Sir, did I just see you fall? Are you hurt?"
Dazed, he looks at me, eyes yellow with jaundice. "Yes, ma'am. My knees hurt."
I immediately see that he had been in the hospital for he was wearing wristbands with his information on it. I picked him up with all my might despite the fact that he towered a foot over me. More people were watching and yet not one person stopped nor offered to assist. He signed himself out of the hospital because he felt like he was not getting good care and he wanted to be taken to the VA for he was a Vietnam veteran. I asked him if he had hepatitis, I asked him if he knew he was dehydrated, unsteady and should not be alone. He said he knew but he just couldn't be in there any longer he also told me he had pancreatitis. I said I was sorry he was in such pain. He was obviously terminally ill, confused and suffering and the poor man needed to make a stand and he walked out.
We started to talk, still no one stopped as I steadied him. I called 911. Paramedics arrived 10 minutes later (again, we were outside the ER). I explain to them that this man wanted to be transported to the VA. They said no. They would only go across the street. At this point an older Muslim man came walking by as he heard the man explain that he was a veteran. The Muslim man said I'm a Vietnam veteran, too! The paramedics begin to leave and told me if he falls again to give them a call. I asked how is this possible? No one is stopping and this man should clearly not be alone! They said it happens all the time, the hospital releases people without any concern what happens to them after they walk through the doors.
The older Muslim man tells Richard he's calling someone. Richard states that the person mentioned wasn't available. O.K. So we're getting somewhere. In his confused and pained state, the sick Veteran begins to walk into traffic. We follow. Out front of a hotel we leave him against the wall and ask him to wait while we get a cab. I popped my head into the hotel lobby and ask them to ring for a cab. They suggested to call the police. I said that was done already and there is nothing left to do but get this guy home. The older gentleman and I begin to hail cabs. One pulls up and finally, out of all the people watching this happen, one man comes to me and asks me if I need money to pay for the cab. It was a blessing for it was all the dollars I have to get this guy home.
The older Muslim man and I get him into the cab and send him off. We begin to walk arm in arm, tired from the event. Tears welled in my eyes.
"How could this be - that NO ONE STOPPED?" I ask. He sweetly looked at me and said not to worry, that God's blessings were upon me and it was as it should be.
Being knowledgeable in Sufism, I offered the greeting of Salaams and that, Inshallah, this had its purpose. He smiled at my tear streaked face and blessed me repeatedly. I felt such peace as I walked this distinguished man in his cap, tunic and cane towards the hospital, he was going to see his wife in ICU.
I had no intention of being there at that time, the universe made sure I was. If you're reading this... tell your children and tell your friends about bystander apathy! It was a shock to see how many people didn't have a moment for someone who was failing in health and in need of assistance. For me, it was a moment to be blessed by a stranger and reminded by another that my health and my life are gifts!