Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Intervention: Better Safe than Sorry or Too Much TV

We see those TV specials when an undercover camera catches bystanders allowing all types of weird things to happen while people just stand by watching.

When do you intervene? When do you speak up? When do you call the authorities?

My husband and I faced this dilemma recently. We live across the street from an elderly woman and her daughter. The elderly woman spends a considerable amount of time outside on the front porch and sometimes is found walking the dog late at night. We have glimpsed a garage filled to the brim with boxes and made some assumptions about what the interior of the house looks like. However, the woman has maintained the same weight, wears clean clothes, and appears lucid so we just keep an eye out. Are we doing the right thing?

Another uncomfortable moment is witnessing an adult discipline a child. That infamous moment in the grocery store when the mom /dad has been pushed over the edge and resorts to yelling, yanking or spanking. Sometimes I want to intervene, try to distract the child, give the mom/dad a moment to compose him/herself, but I worry about how that would be perceived. Am I better just to mind my own business?

It's this tension between wanting to protect the vulnerable, but wanting to protect people's privacy and the fear that intervening may do more harm than good.

What do you think? What rules do you have for intervening?

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