What I did on my summer vacation...

Dear Engaged Bystander:  When I go on our summer family vacations, I do try to leave my work behind.  I also try to stay unplugged from the phone, the Internet, and any other form of "work."  Yet it never really happens that way...

We just got back from a mostly rainy week on Cape Cod.  On our last day there, we FINALLY woke up to a day that was sunny and warm.  We packed up the car and took the bikes out for a ride.  As we rode out of town the trolley tour bus stopped and all of the traffic was backed up.  I thought that the bus stopped because someone's sunglasses were in the street.  But when my partner went over to pick up the glasses, we noticed that a young couple was arguing, yelling, and throwing things all over the street. 

This was a bystander moment.  Using the five steps outlined by Darley and Latane, I clearly:

  • Noticed the event (YES)
  • Considered whether the situation demanded an action (YES)
  • Decided that I did have a responsibility to do something (YES)
  • Chose what form of assistance to use (I HAD NO IDEA...)

While our kids waited by their bicycles, my partner and I walked over to the trolley driver to see if we should call the police.  I was nervous, scared about what they might do and what my kids were watching, knowing I write about this all of the time.  In this situation, I really had no idea what to do. 

But when the couple started to physically fight, one bystander ran over to stop them.  Her action set off a series of other actions -- it was as if she had thrown a switch and everyone knew what do to.  As soon as she approached the couple, three more of us joined her and helped to pull them apart.  Meanwhile a few others pulled out their cell phones and called the police.   The couple continued to yell at each other, but we started to talk directly to each of them about whether they really wanted to be fighting in the street with a tour bus watching, whether this made sense, and giving each of them some other options.  A few of us stayed with the couple until the police arrived.  

The woman who started all of us into motion said, "The way we settle differences in our community, is not by laying a hand on the people we love.  I think that we all have a responsibility for each member of our community." 

When the police arrived my partner and I walked back to our kids to be sure that they were OK having watched this incident, and to see if they had any questions about what they had just seen.  We all had a great conversation about what we had seen, how to decide when to intervene, and even about what the couple could have done differently. 

So while that is not exactly what we would have liked to do on our last day of the vacation, it did give us all a deeper appreciation for how lucky we felt and for me, a deeper insight into just how hard it is to really do what I write about in this blog.   

Now it is your turn to write about what you did on your summer vacation!