I am on my way to drop my child at daycare, the trees that line the median and either side of the road are glowing in the morning sun. Russet, Auburn, Sun-burnt, Fiery. The adjectives spring to my mind even before I can comprehend them. The colors are breathtaking. I wish if only for a moment to be able to stop and capture the magnificence of fall as it happens.
I drive on, realizing that the beauty is breathtaking only because it is transient. My drive back is weighty, quiet even. I don’t turn the radio on. My head is a swirl of thoughts. Just before I drove off from the daycare, I checked my phone. At least five different apps were lit up in red indicating messages to be read, responded to. Some made me smile, like the gofundme app that told me that the balance had doubled since the last time I checked. Then there were the WhatsApp messages from family. The last were messages from people – friends, strangers and anonymous people around the world.
The messages were the same in essence. Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for stepping up for a stranger. Thank you for doing things I wouldn’t have done. My fingers hovered over the reply button debating between “No! Thank you!” or “You are welcome.”
The third more honest reply sat in my head, unvoiced. “What are you thanking me for?” This is exactly anyone else in my position would have done. When you see an accident on the road, you do not walk away. You try and help. You clear the airway, you call the ambulance, you call the police. You wait until the responsibility shifts to an appropriate resource. Then, you walk away.
When you hear appalling stories of how someone has been treated inside a relationship whose sole basis for existence is trust and love, how can you walk way? How can you step away thinking someone else will help? Isn’t there a part of you grateful you have never had to face something like that? Isn’t there a part of you wishing and hoping you could wave a magic wand and make the problems vanish? Isn’t there a part of you that wants to go all out and say “Don’t worry, I will help you, I will take care of you until you can take care of yourself”
Then I realize I haven’t always been this way. As a teenager, I have walked away from accidents. Even today, I do not stop and drop coins into every beggar’s hands I pass when in India. I am not moved by appeals for relief when natural disasters strike, at least not all the time.
Becoming an adult has with it made me susceptible to certain things more than others. Unfairness, injustice, women’s rights, abuse of any kind. These things make me pause. They make me care. They make me stay up at night researching ways to help. They make me pour my heart out to strangers hoping they will be as moved as I am.
Perhaps, the next time someone thanks me for what I am doing, I should be gracious and smile. I should say you are welcome and know that they will be moved by something else that I cannot see myself getting involved with. That there will be moments I will be looking upon someone as savior when in truth they are debating the tag themselves.