Genuine Distress

Image credit: Hosam Katan/Reuters

I live in the United States, a country where improvised explosive devices don’t explode all that often, where most people get up every day, go to work, come home and go to sleep all without being shot at. It’s so easy to forget that there is turmoil elsewhere when the worst danger you face on a daily basis is driving on the freeway in rush hour traffic.

If you’re like me, you pay attention to the news and see reports on the Ukrainian revolution to oust a rotten leader resulting in dozens of protesters shot dead:

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Image from

And you think to yourself, that’s awful that a dirty government would outright kill its own citizens just for protesting.

You read about the ongoing struggle in Syria where, just this morning, an air raid killed 26 people, including two women and ten children:

Image credit: Hosam Katan/Reuters
Image credit: Hosam Katan/Reuters

And you think to yourself, that’s awful. This struggle has been going on for three years. When will this end? How much more can they take? Why doesn’t someone do something?

Then, I go to work, fire up my computer and start designing crap that doesn’t matter at all. My life is in about as much danger as a passenger on a domestic airline flight. Yes, there’s the possibility that something will go wrong, that I’ll crash, but that would be an anomaly, not an omnipresent threat. The odds are slim that I’ll get bombed in an air raid on the way to work or be shot by my own corrupt government.

So, when I was standing outside on break on a quiet street full of quiet businesses and a woman walked down the sidewalk, raving and wailing, it was a significant anomaly. She was still a block away and I could hear her cries. She was coming towards me. I couldn’t make out what she was saying.

I had two options; do nothing or find out what was wrong. Shamefully, my first instinct was to do the former, but she kept coming towards me. I looked around to see if anyone would come to our aid, but it was just me and her outside. There was no one else around. The only sound was her.

I walked towards her, and when I got within shouting distance, I stupidly asked her if she was okay. She clearly was not. The closer I got, the more damage was apparent. She was bleeding. She had blood on her hands and dripping down her face. I walked faster. I got about ten feet away and stupidly asked her if she was okay again. She began wailing. She collapsed on the sidewalk.

I had my phone in my hand and began pushing the numbers 911 into it for the first time in fifteen years, when a cop car pulled up beside us. I asked them what was going on. Contrary to what I figured when I asked it, they answered my question. They told me there had been an accident on the main street where she had come from. When they got to the scene, there were two dead, the driver of the other car and what they could only assume was the crying woman’s toddler. She had fled the scene. I asked them to take pity on her since she was clearly not in her right mind and was in shock. They told me not to worry and thanked me for looking after her. I told them I didn’t do anything. Yes, you did.

They packed her into the backseat of the cop car and drove off. I watched their silently flashing lights turn the corner and went back inside. I didn’t tell anyone at work what happened because I didn’t want her pain sensationalized around the water cooler. She deserves more than that.

I’m telling you, because I want to remind you how fragile our lives really are. Even if we don’t live in a war zone, we are not safe from grief. Any one of us could find ourselves in genuine distress. Take care of yourselves.