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everyday-heros-in-action-at-the-boston-marathon-explosion-136612587320I was amazed and impressed by how many people ran toward the bomb sites during the Boston Marathon! I felt the same sort of amazement during the 9-11 attacks in New York. Not only did first responders put theirĀ  lives at risk running into the Ground Zero area to care for the injured, but ordinary people, instead of running as far away as they could, joined in wrapping their jackets around shivering folks at the scene. Just when I was wondering about the state of our country after frequently hearing reports about people either watching or walking away when seeing someone being beaten, raped, or robbed, something like this happens and people step up to the plate and put themselves in harm’s way.

And then there are those who cannot find the time to bring a bowl of soup to someone they know who is ill. They cannot be bothered to check in on a sick relative or friend or even to make a phone call. They don’t have the inclination to offer kind words of comfort or wishes for a speedy recovery. These are not bad people. They see themselves as good-hearted, well-meaning people, who would go out of their way to help someone if the were called upon to do so. They just don’t do it spontaneously; in fact, often it does not even occur to them to do so, or if it does, inertia gets the best of them. They primarily are thinking about themselves and their own level of comfort. Sometimes they cannot get beyond petty grievances. Sometimes they believe that they have nothing to offer.

I belong to a small group of people with whom I get together approximately ten times each year for over 20 years. Whenever there is a crisis in the lives of any one of these people, the group mobilizes itself to see what it can do. In addition, there are several folks who will extend themselves beyond the group and become individual caregivers to the person is crisis. These folks might cook, drive, visit, or call. They let their presence and concern be known. They don’t have to be asked, they just act. I am always moved by their willingness to think of others before their own convenience.

So the question is, what does it take for each of us to step up in a crisis? How big does the crisis have to be before we take action?

We all know that when someone goes out of their way for us in a time of need, we are grateful. When someone who we hardly know steps up it becomes endearing; it can change the relationship. By the same token, when someone with whom we have a familial relationship or friendship does not step up, that too is noticed. And the disconnect can change that relationship as well.

A crisis can bring out the best and worst in us. It is a time where we are being tested. We each have to ask ourselves what we would do in a time of crisis? What would we do when we learn of a family member or friend who is in need? Are we willing to get outside of ourselves? What are the limits of our compassion? When we give to someone, who are we thinking of? Them? Ourselves? Do we give what they need or what are comfortable with? To what extent are we willing to step up? Do our answers to these questions leave us feeling good about ourselves or do we find ourselves lacking?

I know that watching the people in Boston made me question myself. Would I have run toward or away from the bombed area?

 

*****

[Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica – Los Angeles. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a fan on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating “like” on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]