When I have the time and the weather permits, I like to go for a walk and get a little exercise. In my little town, it’s a rare day that two or three people don’t stop and ask if I need a ride. Quite a bit of America is still that way—taking the time to help others. However, a person needs to keep in mind that there is a darker element in our society, and a helpful citizen can quickly become just another victim.
Recently, in a force-on-force scenario, a student, who happened to be an EMT, saw a young woman lying crumpled by the side of a path. He rushed to her side to render aid only to see her roll over and run a rubber knife across his throat. In the debriefing, he told the instructor that he was an EMT and just had to render aid. The instructor told him that he used to be an EMT—now he was just a dead man.
I am not about to tell you that you shouldn’t help others who are in need. But, I will caution you that you should be in Condition Orange when you approach these situations. One should be on high alert and ready to take defensive action if things turn out bad.
One should be on high alert and ready to take defensive action if things turn out bad.
Suppose you see a woman standing by her disabled car on a dark and lonely stretch of road. Can you just ignore her and drive on by? Frankly, I have a hard time doing that. But you need to realize that this could be a setup—with her accomplices hiding nearby, ready to steal your car, rob you, or worse. One excellent idea is to come to a stop while you are still far from the woman and her car, looking at the scene carefully before going any closer.
And then there is the not-uncommon situation of a guy beating on a woman out in the shopping center parking lot. None of us like to see something like that. It could be a robbery, an abduction, or a domestic fuss, and you really don’t know until you get right in the middle of it. Any police officer who has any experience at all can tell tales about breaking up a domestic attack to protect the woman, only to have the woman turn on the officer.
A similar situation might be seeing two guys fighting, and one of them is clearly getting the worst of it. Before you jump in, you might consider if this could be an undercover officer trying to arrest a drug dealer. And how do you tell the difference just by looking at them? In this and other scenarios, you might set out to be helpful only to find yourself the actual victim or even one of those charged with criminal offenses. Or you could just find yourself dead because you failed to read the situation accurately.
I am glad that my fellow Americans still take time and effort to help others. But we need to be on high alert when we consider going into such situations. Go with your gut feeling—if it looks bad and feels bad, it could very well be bad. In those cases, it is an excellent idea to just go on by and call 9-1-1. From a safe distance, being a good witness might be the best help that you can render.
Be careful out there.