I was with my 12 year old son in a grocery store. We had finished shopping, and as we approached the checkout line, I noticed that there was a young mom with a baby in a front carrier harness attached to her. She was slowly trying to unload her groceries from her cart onto the belt. I looked at my son and told him that he needed to go help her. He immediately froze. I repeated myself, and he again just stared at me. This exchange continued, and I began to get a little agitated. He started stuttering, "But….but…..but…..but….but…" I didn't find this funny and growled,
"I told you to go help her now go do it!"
"Fine, I'll go help her, but this isn't over," I muttered as I was clearly frustrated.
I then went and offered to help her. She was surprised and genuinely thankful for my assistance. I told her I understood how difficult it can be to try to get around with a little one since I have three. She laughed a bit and said she was still trying to get used to it with one.
That evening, my son and I began to reflect on what had happened. I asked him what kept him from helping. He answered, "What if she hadn't wanted our help? It would've been pretty embarrassing."
"But don't you think," I answered, "that everyone who was watching her unload her cart knew that she needed help? If she would have shut you down, the only one who would've been embarrassed would be her."
I then chose to dig a little deeper and shared with him that the calling of every man around the world is to help and protect women and children. They need us and we have a special calling to serve them. Not satisfied with this, I pushed some more, "So what was the real reason that you chose not to help her?"
"I just told you." he quickly replied.
"No, the REAL reason." I shot back. Crickets….nothing. He just stared at me. In all honesty, the real reason he didn't move is the same tractor beam that has held you and me back before too. "You didn't help her because of fear. You were afraid." I said. "What would've happened if the neighbors we didn't know had chosen to ignore your screaming when you got in your bike accident? What if they left you bleeding in the street because they were afraid?"
"Dad, don't you think that's a little extreme?" he countered.
"Helping someone takes many forms and comes from the same place deep within you. Helping someone and making a difference isn't and shouldn't be circumstantial." Fear is what keeps us from serving, growing, and making the biggest difference vs. just making a tiny dent.
Anyone can make a dent. I've seen "people" open their car doors too fast and accidentally dent the car next to them. Was that dent purposeful? Nope. Did it make a difference? Maybe a marginal one at best. We shouldn't settle to make dents, but instead we should strive to make full-scale differences.
We discussed it further, but as we finished, I said, "You are now accountable, and you will be called upon again to help someone you don't know. And I know, next time, that you'll be ready. I love you."