Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Kindness Of Strangers...

The Ragpicker
Édouard Manet
1865

This is a little quiz for you -- a hypothetical question, as it were. It may or may not be based on an actual situation. Imagine you are working for a health care organization. A patient -- a frail 80 year-old man -- is on his way to visit your office. He is ill. He has already been to see the doctor a month ago, and the doctor gave the elderly gentleman some medicine and asked him to come back in a month. On his way to the doctor's office for his return visit, he gets confused and lost. He goes into a church and asks for help, and the folks in the church call 911 and the elderly gentleman is assisted by the police who bring him to the doctor's office. The doctor sees the patient, spends some time counselling him on his illness, gives him some more medicine, and asks the elderly gentleman how he is going to get home. He sits forlornly in his chair, resting on his cane, looking very small and tired, and says, "I don't know..."

Now imagine that the doctor enquires throughout the office if some money can be taken out of the discretionary funds in order to help this old gentleman take a taxi home.

"Sure, we have the money... I'll check with the taxi company to see how much it will cost to get the patient from point A to point B..."

At this point the Administrator of the office steps in and tells the doctor that he cannot give money to the elderly gentleman to get home, he will have to find some other way to get home, even though we do have the funds.

My question is this:  Which person would you be?  Would you be the person who opens your wallet, takes out two $20 bills and gives it to the elderly gentleman so he can get safely home, and calls a taxi for him?  Or would you be the person who says, "Who knows -- he probably owns his own home and is just scamming us"?

Sometimes people show their true colors, and much like the picture of Dorian Gray, even though the exterior may be polished and attractive, the colors underneath are hideous and deformed.

One day, perhaps, there will be people who are 80 years old, frail, ill and confused, and depending on the kindness of strangers.

38 comments:

susie said...

In this case, I would make sure the old man got home, whether I paid for it or took him home. You would have to be pretty cynical to think otherwise of him. Or you could take up a collection to get him home, or call the police to take him home.

There are many ways to solve the problem, but to just immediately suspect that he is playing on your sympathies is awful.

Kathryn said...

I know i'm one of the folks who would help him. I got in trouble for something similar when i worked at an Alzheimer's SNF & took one of the residents to church with me (his church). Not the same situation, granted, but the administrator called me on the carpet & said that i'd put the facility at risk by transporting him - even tho the activity director thought it a good idea, he was perfectly ambulatory & not at risk for falls, it was wonderful for him to be with a group of folks who knew & loved him & we had a signed release & his family was on board with it at the time.

Bureaucracy. Yuck. I understand the reasoning, but i will never like it.

And, i don't care for the cynics who claim, "he's just playing us." I may get scammed sometimes & i look at it as "I'm sad that they would take advantage of me that way, but maybe someone will need the $$ & i don't want to turn them away where i could be doing good. Maybe i'm naive, but i'd rather be that than hard.

Single and Sane said...

I would offer to take him home myself. Depending on the circumstances, I might try to find someone to help me. I'm not usually the person who offers to drive strangers home, but I have a couple of times when I sensed that they really needed help.

Margaret

Jo said...

Susie, good answer...! You're one of the good guys.

Kathryn, yay! I would rather be scammed than be hard too. You're one of the good guys...!

Margaret, I knew you would be one of the good guys too...! Yay!

joanne said...

I would be sure he made it home safely if I had to carry him there myself, which in itself would be quite a sight, nevertheless, I err on the side of being a feeling, caring compassionate human being...

DJan said...

Funny, I would think anyone would rather see him to his home than put him in a taxi, even. Because who knows what might happen to him on the way home? We will all be old and frail one day, dependent on the kindness of strangers. I believe in karma.

Jo said...

JoJo, you are a feeling, caring compassionate human being... I'm so glad...!

DJan, none of us were in a position to leave work, or I think one of us would have taken him home. He did get home safely, thank goodness. The taxi company took good care of him. The office administrator, however, did not. How heartless can anyone be!?

Katy said...

On the bus I see both kinds. Drug addicts trolling for money and people who are honestly lost, confused and need some extra change and a point in the right direction.

In this situation I don't think I would feel comfortable putting the man in a cab. I think I would prefer to drive him home after I made some calls to see who would be looking out for him once he got there.

I know my Grandfather had dementia the last few years of his life. Before he was officially diagnosed he was helped by more than one stranger. For that our family will be forever grateful.

myletterstoemily said...

when people say, "oh, they are just
scamming you," i just don't care.

what if they are? how does that
really hurt me?

it would hurt me much deeper to deprive
an elderly man of the help he needed.

Country Girl said...

What goes around comes around. I would have paid for the cab and called it. And when I'm older and confused, I hope my kindness comes around to help me if I should be of need.

Marguerite said...

It seems to me that the doctor would have an obligation to the patient to make sure that he got home safely. But I would have definitely paid for a cab for him and made sure that he got there.

Whitney Lee said...

I would hate to be the administrator. I cannot imagine how dim the world must seem when viewed through that sort of cynicism. It would be far better to occasionally be taken advantage of than to leave someone genuinely floundering. I agree with the others, we may all someday be dependent on the kindness of others.

lakeviewer said...

Better call social services too, to get support and assistance for this man. He will require more than the taxi fare.

Jo said...

Katy, we made sure the cab driver took good care of him, because we were not able to get ahold of a family member, and we couldn't leave ourselves, and we made sure he got home okay. But we had to pay for it ourselves, sadly.

Lea, I don't think I will ever have any respect for the administrator again. Cold and heartless...! Unbelievable.

Kate, yes, that's what we did. The doctors involved were shocked at the administrator, and more than a little angry. But we managed to get the old gentleman home. And you're right -- what goes around comes around. Karma...

Marguerite, yes, the doctors were both very concerned. One of them had quite a heated argument with the administrator, but the old gentleman got home safely, thanks to us.

Whitney, I have lost any respect I may have had for the administrator. I cannot respect anyone who is that hard and cold. Unbelievable, isn't it!?

Rosaria, yes, the doctors took care of that after the gentleman left. They did all the paperwork for him, so that will never happen again.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think it's really sad that the old man was so alone in the world that he had no one to accompany him to his doctor's visit. I can't understand someone who is in a position to help someone in need, but refuses. Does this Administrator have the absolute last word, even when everyone opposes her? It's a sad thing indeed when a medical facility loses its humanity.

Firefly said...

The person who denied the old man the taxi fare is probably the same person who will make sure they benefit themselves from the fund. Shame on them. I will probably be the one to load the old man in my car and take him home myself.

mrsnesbitt said...

I fully agree with firefly's view on this! I too would take the man home myself!

lgsquirrel said...

Hmmm. My earlier comment did not materialise. Anyway, much has been said by others already. I would call him a taxi, pay the fare and not worry about reimbursement from the discretionary fund. It really isn't such a mind blowing amount to warrant thinking further about it.

June said...

I think the way it worked out is perfect. You all contributed, which did you all some good; it's more of an act of charity that way than if the business had paid.
And I'm very glad the doctors took care of the paperwork so the old man will have help in the future.

Linda said...

I would hope I'd be the one to help! That is the way I was raised, and raised my kids that way too. So often we see people who know how to scam the systems, and they ruin it for the ones who really need help. I don't want to be cynical.

HAPPY IN NEVADA said...

I actually had a chance to do something very similar back in 1981 when I took both a very old and frail man and his wife home from the very doctor's office I was at.

Granted, I wasn't an employee, so I was at liberty to do what I thought was the right thing. The good thing was I made life-time friends from this, and 3 years later the gentleman died and his wife asked me to play for the funeral as well as continuing our friendship before she died.

I think the combination of all those who commented has provided ample information on what should have been done; was done, and what we can do if we're ever faced with this situation.

I currently take a very ill cancer patient back and forth to the doctor; the store - the post office, and I met him because I saw him struggling to walk along the road-way 6 years ago. He is as thin as any person can be and still be alive; he's invited me to his apartment and I cook for him about 3 times a month and visit him by phone and make sure he's tended to since he lives all alone. Again, we have no idea what wonderful chances we'll have to help what seems to be a stranger, but is (instead) destined to be a dear friend.

Cedar said...

The last time I went to the emergency room in my PJ out of Ambulance and they stabilized me and said I could go...I asked how do I get home? And they said...take a bus. I was in my P.J's. I know there are cruel people in the world...but cruel people in theh healthcare industry seems especially frightening to me.

Teri said...

People like the administrator are lessons to me on how NOT to act. What a cold, hard world he lives in. I can't imagine living in such a terrible place.

The Bug said...

I NEVER have cash - but I'm sure the taxi would take a credit card & that's what I would do if I couldn't leave the office. Or I would call Dr. M & make him come ferry the man home :)

Kimberly said...

I'd make sure he got home...typically I don't like most people but the elderly will always have my respect and my help when needed.

Land of shimp said...

I'd be the person funding the taxi, Jo. I don't think it would ever occur to me that an eighty-year-old man was a scam artist, by the way, but then I rarely think that about people in general.

The way I figure it, I'd rather take the chance of being scammed, than the chance that someone who needed help wasn't getting it, when I was able to give it.

Either way, I should just be grateful for a life that has forty-extra bucks in it, to lose to either being helpful, or being scammed, you know?

Sam Liu said...

I would most certainly ensure that the old man got home safely, irrespective of the cost. Sure, he may just be a con artist, but one can't live one's life in a constant state of paranoia. And if I ever reached that state, I'd like to think someone would do the same for me.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I would offer to drive him home. This is a powerful post, Jo! And the art you selected to accompany it drives your point home (no pun intended...it just happened.) You are extraordinary! And I love the way you make us ALL think! Love, Janine XO

Marlene said...

Your administrator should learn the meaning of the word "discretionary"

Carl said...

I tend to err on the side of doing the right thing. I have from time to time needed help in this life and it came from both expected and surprising places.

Alicia said...

Definitely help him get home. I prefer to know in my heart that I did the right thing.

Belizegial said...

Jo, sometimes you have to step out of your 'position' whatever that may do and act on instinct and from the heart. The administrator would do well to have a rethink about situations of this nature.

Cheers

kenju said...

What a sad situation to be in. I would take the man home!

@ly said...

I truly believe in karma...what goes around comes around. Some day the Administrator will be in a similar position themselves and will be looking for help...and there will be no one there for he/she. I not only would have found a ride...I would have taken a collection within the office, sent him with the money and made sure he had a hot meal to go! Where is the compassion for our senior citizens...the Administrator should be ashamed!!!

Mia said...

I don't think a taxi is the best way to go. An ambulance would be better suited to handle any medical issues.

Are ambulance rides free in Canada? I know it would be much cheaper to call a taxi in America.

Mclndesm said...

I would give him the money and call a cab. I would also call him later to be sure he got home and to let him know he wasn't alone in this world. These are situations that do not require a lot of thought. We all know what the "right" thing to do is, we tend to muck it up with overintellectualizing.
And if it's a scam, well that is on him, not me. I would rather live in a world where I reach my hand out to help than one where I keep it at my side.

A.M. said...

This Administrator is part of the evil in this world and so is any one that agrees to this. This might be harsh, but who wouldn't give to this man even if it was for his own selfish gain. He's 80! All I can do about this situation is shake my head and pray for them. I hope one day these ladies will gain a sensitive heart.

Nicole said...

I'd like to think I am the one that gives the money and arranges the taxi home...or if I don't have the money (and let's face it, I don't) I'd like to be the one that offers a ride in my car.

On this past Friday there was an old man and middle aged woman parked on the highway just outside our town. They had a sign out asking for gas money or food. We drove by them twice while taking on our children to vacation bible school. Each time I said we should help. My husband said that this had become the new scam and that we couldn't be sure they were really in need. However...ten minutes later we were at home taking food out of the cabinets. Add in paper plates, baby wipes, cups, plastic sliverwear, drinking water. I didn't think of it until later but I wish we had stopped at the dollar store for toothpaste and toothbrushes.

On the way back to pick up the children, we stopped...we were third in line behind tourists heading north for the 4th of July. The car ahead of us gave the man $100. We couldn't spare the money but we gave as much food as possible.

What if it's a scam? True...but what if it isn't???