Don’t Be a Bystander; Do Something

By Mac Pomery

I rarely get mad, but recently I found myself quite upset after witnessing a man in a wheelchair who clearly needed help getting through a crowd. He was in a manual wheelchair and was struggling to push his wheels.

At first, I didn’t walk up to him. I am disabled as well, and my legs aren’t any good. I hoped that someone would come over and give him some assistance.

But as time went on, no one did. I saw many people stop, stare at him and keep walking. Yet, not one person stopped and offered him help. My blood was boiling.

Obviously, these people passing by probably didn’t know what to do. They might not have worked with a disabled person before, so they didn’t know how they could help. Or they may have even been worried that offering would have embarrassed him.

It can be easy to take the sidelines when we see others struggling. Who knows what is really going on? Can you even help them? Maybe someone else will come along.

We need to realize that if everyone takes the position of bystander, then no one will help. There is no guarantee in any situation that another person nearby is more qualified to step in. 

Sometimes, you need to take the risk and just ask.

In the man in the wheelchair’s case, I was hesitant to do anything. I allowed myself to get mad for a moment while forgetting that I was acting as a bystander as well. Yes, I have my issues, but that doesn’t make me unable to help.

I did not have any experience actually handling a wheelchair before this. I momentarily thought I may be too weak to help him at all, but I swallowed my fears and walked over.

“Hi, can I help you get out of here?” I asked.

He immediately said yes. It was obvious that he was stuck and wasn’t sure how to get himself out. I placed my hands on the handles and took a deep breath before I began to push.

Even if we don’t know what we can do, it is up to each of us to step up. The first step is to ask. If it ends up being that your help is not needed, it never hurts to check.

Does the person need help carrying their books? Do they need you to walk with them to the other side of campus?

Finally, examine if what the person needs is something you can do. For me, pushing the wheelchair was a bit difficult, but I could do it. It was a little awkward, and it took some patience, but we got out of that crowd.

Perhaps stepping up seems intimidating. Maybe you aren’t sure why you need to, and you would rather not get involved with someone else’s problems. However you feel, it’s important to push past this and see the people in front of you.

They need your help. As simple as it is to push them out of your mind and keep walking, it isn’t so simple for someone in need. They may not be able to wait around for who knows how long for the next helper to arrive. They need someone to notice and rise to the challenge.

So, how about it? Will you be the one to step in and push the chair?