I saw the woman sitting on the ground leaning against the outside of the retail store. I couldn’t tell whether she was hurt or just taking a little break. It was almost 100 degrees outside; she might have just needed to sit in the air conditioning for a few minutes.
Something wasn’t right. I looked at my wife. She looked at me. Neither of us could tell if the woman needed help. But as we got closer, I saw the woman struggling to breathe and noticed something about her eyes wasn’t quite right.
I said, “Honey, I think she needs help.” My wife is a nurse, and she immediately leaped into action. She started speaking with the woman, and she tried to take her pulse. Then I was ordered to go and get a paper bag. I ran into the store and retrieved the paper bag. I was too late. When I returned the woman had already thrown up.
Now, in addition to my wife, there were two African American security guards (one male, one female), one older African American lady, and one young white lady. All were surrounding the sick woman on the floor.
My wife instructed me to go back to the store, this time for paper towels. I ran back to the store, told the woman behind the counter what I needed, and she handed me two rolls of paper towels. When I returned with the paper towels, a young, hispanic, female security guard showed up with an ice pack. My wife put the ice pack on the back of the sick woman’s neck. The hispanic security guard ran to get another ice pack. The male African American security guard had just returned from running to call the paramedics.
We were now joined by an elderly Asian lady who came over to make sure we didn’t need anything else.
The poor, sick woman was horribly embarrassed and crying. She didn’t want to call her husband because she didn’t want him to worry. Everyone tried to console her, telling her that there was nothing to be ashamed of; she was sick.
African American people stopped to help the sick woman, who also happened to be African American. White people stopped to help the sick African American woman. An hispanic woman twice ran for ice. An Asian woman stopped to help, too.
What was noticeably in short supply were men. Of any race.
I know for a fact that racism is alive and well in the United States; I am fortunate to not have been subject to it, but I’ve witnessed it firsthand. I know that sexism and ageism are alive and well, too. Which is to say nothing of discrimination based on social class. But I believe, as President Obama stated yesterday, that each generation is better than the one before it when it comes to these issues. No doubt there is still work to be done. But I witnessed another story. A different story.
No one left the sick woman’s side until the paramedics arrived.
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