This morning a man asked me if I had any spare change or a dollar. I told him I had exactly one spare quarter which I gave to him. Each bus ride takes a quarter and for some reason I put three in my pocket, even though I would only be riding two buses, so I did indeed have one spare quarter.
When the bus arrived, I got on and sat in my normal seat one row in front of the back door. The man that I gave the quarter to got on and sat in the seat behind the driver.
I hate to feel helpless, but I often do. If I am able to help, I often feel like it's not enough. I looked at the man sitting at the front of the bus and wondered if I should have given him a dollar or maybe even more. He'd asked a few more people for money before getting on the bus, but no one else gave him any.
As I was looking at the man, lost in my thoughts about why he might be begging for money, he suddenly kicked out his leg. Within another second, his body rolled to the side, he began to shake, and he fell to the floor of the bus. At that moment, I realized just how helpless I am. I was frozen in my seat as another passenger sprang to his side and yelled to the driver that there was a problem.
A whole swirl of thoughts went through my head. Heart attack or seizure? Do I call 911? Why isn't the driver doing anything? The man that had so quickly jumped to the fallen man's side called for someone to help him.
The fallen man was gasping for air and drool was running down his chin. The other man called for help again, and the man in front of me simply said, "there's nothing any of us can do." Was he right? Was there nothing anyone could do?
A few moments later, the man's breathing slowed and he began to sit up. When asked if he needed an ambulance, he said not to call one. He clumsily pulled himself off the floor and into a seat. The bus started moving again, and as though nothing had happened, the man who had fallen started asking everyone around him for spare change. I averted my eyes when he looked toward me. I'd given him a quarter earlier so I felt pretty certain he wouldn't ask me. If he had and I'd given him more money, he would know that I lied about only having an extra quarter.
The passemger that had so quickly come to the man's aid when he fell emptied his wallet of several bills and gave them to the man. Was he a better person than me? He jumped up to help. He gave him all the money in his wallet. I was left sitting and wondering what would have happened to that quarter I'd given if the man had died. Who empties the pockets of those who die? It was a terrible thought, and I hated myself for thinking it.
I'm glad it was just a seizure and not a heart attack. I'm glad I didn't witness someone die. I would like to think that if the other man had not so quickly rushed to the side of the struggling man, that perhaps I would have. Maybe I should take a CPR class so that I'll feel more prepared if something like that happens again. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it and just be glad that I gave a man a quarter.