What Would You Do?

Has anyone ever asked you the question used as the title of this piece? If so, did you feel they were looking for validation, or were testing you in some fashion? Sometimes OneOldCop wants to ask the person, “How many folks have you already asked,” or “Still looking for someone to agree with you?” Personal experiences and sarcasm aside, in a broader sense the question is valid and can be interesting.

The question is so interesting to some that it has become the focus of at least one television show and numerous short news pieces on television. In those situations a person is not asked the question directly. Instead, the person or persons become unknowing participants in a staged incident to see what someone might or might not do. This writer is not  interested in so-called reality shows of this type. Yet, there are times when it is not possible to avoid them completely. Such was the case a few mornings ago.

Staying in shape becomes harder and harder the older one gets. That is especially true for retired cops with donut addictions. Accordingly, this writer spends as many mornings a week as possible on the treadmill. One can burn calories and catch up on the right-wing and left-wing news coverage. The fitness center normally has a television tuned to Fox News and another tuned to one of the three major networks. On this particular morning, one of the major network morning shows was ripping off another network’s concept and doing a what-would-you-do piece.

The piece in question involved a child wandering through several crowded venues to see how people might react. The reporter was shocked, yes shocked, with the results. No one paid any attention to a well-dressed preteen walking around in broad daylight, showing no signs of distress, and not asking for help.

Of course, the reporter running this piece of journalistic excellence questioned several people who were in the vicinity of the child. He wanted to know why they had not rushed to the child’s rescue upon noticing he was unaccompanied. When asked why they had not taken steps to prevent this poor lost child’s abduction by space aliens or worse, people appeared uniformly shocked and suitably repentant about their lack of discernment.

At least the ones who were shown on television appeared somewhat chastened. One would hope that a few of those not shown told the reporter where he and his hidden cameras could go, and what they could do when they got there.

Those who consented to interviews said they were not concerned because the child appeared comfortable and not in distress. Some of the morning show’s anchors surprised the reporter by coming to the defense of the people interviewed. They thought the boy looked old enough to take care of himself. Also, the locations were not dark alleyways or lonesome stretches of highway. The locations were highly public, even touristy areas.

The hidden camera reporter admitted at one point that some people said they had not approached the child because they did not want to appear “creepy.” They were worried someone might take their offer to help the wrong way.

There you have it folks! People did not want to appear creepy approaching a nice looking  boy who appeared quite comfortable walking around in highly populated areas such as an amusement park and a boardwalk. The reporter brushed his colleagues’ and the interviewees’ comments aside. He felt the news media needed to raise the awareness of the general public to the dangers inherent in a preteen child wandering alone in 2014.

News flash! It is the awareness of that danger that kept those people sitting on their park benches or walking on by. Amber alerts and television coverage telling the story of a child that is missing are a regular occurrence throughout the country. In many of those cases, the last person, adult especially, to have been anywhere near the child is immediately a person of interest to the authorities. It does not take many of those kinds of incidents to turn Good Samaritans into hear no, see no evil Samaritans.

The United States today is extremely litigious and punitive. Anyone intervening in the apparent misconduct of another may find him or herself facing criminal or civil legal actions. This is true in situations involving adults and it is especially true in the case of children.

Any adult approaching a lone child runs the risk of becoming a target. They may become the target of a concerned citizen, of a governmental agency, or a hungry lawyer. If something happens to the child that is almost a certainty. It could even be true if the child makes it safely back to a parent, but says some older person approached him or her. Why the person approached the child will not make one whit of difference if a parent complains to the authorities, and God help the person who actually touches a child for even the most innocent of reasons.

It is unfortunate people are afraid to check on the welfare of a child wandering around alone. It is even more unfortunate we live in a society where many seem to feel that is the safest course to take.

© S. E. Jackson – 2014

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