Dear future self,
I write this so you never forget the feeling you have now.
3 days ago, while on your way home, you saw a man having a violent seizure. You were just 10 steps away and was about to run to him when cars in the road started honking.
You suddenly stopped and realized you are not in your home country where helping strangers is instinctive and natural. All the horrible stories of people who got into trouble just by helping others came rushing into your head. You took a step back as you thought of yourself and remembered the warnings of others: during any emergency it is safest to call the police rather than act in good will.
You froze as you saw the man stiffened and collapsed to the ground in slow motion. His head hit the pavement and your heart stopped beating. You dialed the emergency hotline and spoke to a police but the language barrier led you nowhere. You were put on hold and you knew that was as good as being disconnected.
You were closest to the man and you clearly saw his lifeless body slumped on the hard cold pavement. The cars on the road kept on honking and you looked around to see another person a few steps away but equally paralyzed as you. One man came near the body then took a few steps back and dialed his phone. Two more men came close but maintained a distance. You felt everyone’s hesitation.
Your heart was screaming for you to go, check his pulse and do something but your brain kept waving that ugly red flag.
After what seemed like an eternity, the lifeless body suddenly moved. You heard a collective sigh of relief and the “dead man” slowly stood up. Only then did the men surrounding him held him to give support. Someone from the shop nearby came out with a bottle of water.
You walked pass the growing crowd and looked at the man. You asked him from a distance,
“Are you okay now?”
The “dead” man looked back at you with dazed eyes and slowly nodded. You walked home as fast as you can and upon reaching the safety of your house, you crumbled and cried.
You cried for the man who would have been saved from hitting his head so hard if only you took that 10 steps towards him. You cried for the men who had noble intentions but are kept away by the caution tape of fear and discrimination. You cried for the people who could not spare time to get out of their cars and run to the aid of a helpless man. You cried for the honks, the calls and the stares that did nothing to better the situation.
You cried for yourself because you failed the test of selflessness.
I write this to you, future self, because I want you to remember how sorry you feel right now. Always remember that sickening feeling of regret knowing you could have done better. Know that even if you replay this incident in your head over and over with you running to the man’s aid, you still have missed out on the real joy of heroism that no imagined altruism can bring.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. – Philippians 2:4, Proverbs 3:27