“I don’t think our readers are going to believe you,” says my peer at Miburg. “I don’t really believe it myself,” I reply.
It’s another warm Thursday night, and I am on my way home from a rather frustrating day at work. My gas tank light glares at me like a glowing red eye from my dashboard. I give in and pull my car into Sheetz. It’s the same one where I met Mike a few weeks earlier. Each pump has a gathering of people, feeding their vehicles undisclosed amounts of fuel.
I pull into an open spot and start the ritual. I unlock the fuel door, twist open the cap, stab my card into the machine and stare off into an unthinking bliss. A small commotion pulls me out of my gas pump lull. I turn around to find a white truck has pulled up behind me with two men inside. The driver is trying to get my attention.
“Do you know where the VA is?” The gentleman repeats. I put the pump on autopilot, walk over to the vehicle and start to give him directions. From a distance it must look like some kind of dance; a kind of Macarena with crossed arms, street names, and robust gesticulation. From the expression on his face, I can tell he is not getting it at all. He is clearly from out of town. I sigh and tell him, “I actually live right by there; I can take you to it.” He thanks me profusely and waits patiently while I give my nozzle two shakes before replacing it on the pump. Together, we drive off in tandem, his truck following closely behind.
I take my time, making sure we are not separated. Several cars zoom past us in frustration; a pattern I see all too often. A mere five minutes is added to my commute as I pull into the entrance of the VA Hospital. I get out of my car and introduce myself to the men in the white truck. They kindly tell me their names and shake my hand before we part ways.
Am I a magnet for helping others? I do not believe so. During a conversation with a peer, we explored this question and discussed the idea of “living the profession.” “If you had asked me three years ago about that idea, I would not believe you,” she said. “The more social work I do, the more it becomes a part of who I am.”
I do not see myself as deserving of platitudes for helping others. I am a person who holds compassion and love in my heart and chooses to act in ways guided by that very compassion. These acts of kindness have become an automatic response as a result. Maybe I am a little selfish as well. By helping others I am ultimately helping myself by making my community a better place to be.
As a follow up thought, I do recognize the privilege I have as an abled body male who can readily help others without fear of injury or assault. It is important to consider your own safety and comfort when making those decisions. Please help others responsibly.
(Photo Credit: Nicholas Trietsch)