Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scary Story

The other day I was subbing in the 6th grade. During reading groups one group finished a story about a teenage boy who was a bit troubled, so his family sent him to live with his uncle in the mountains of Colorado. He didn't like his uncle's rules, ran away, spend a couple of nights lost in the mountains, and then it snowed. Just when we thought he was a goner for sure, you know, going in and out of consciousness, he spotted an orange tent, and started dragging himself toward it.
Next thing we know, he's waking up dry and warm inside a sleeping bag in the orange tent, while a stranger brings him soup and dries his clothes by the fire. The boy's uncle comes to find him and thanks the stranger profusely for not letting his nephew die of hypothermia.

So after we finished the story, we were supposed to have a discussion to make connections between real life and what we had just read. I asked, "Has anyone in this group ever helped a stranger in trouble?"

There was a resounding and very proud "NO!"

Oh. Puzzled, I asked, "OK, why not?"

"Because the stranger could be a kidnapper." "Or a mass murderer." " Or a child molester," the group replied.

It became clear to me what was going on. I then asked, "If your parents were with you, do you think it would be a good idea to help someone who was about to freeze to death?"

Again the answer - "NO!" "What if they were faking being frozen?" "What if you helped them, and then when they got their strength back, they turned out to be a mass murderer?"

The list of reasons NOT to help went on and on. When asked what they thought SHOULD happen, the answers ranged from calling 911, to just leaving the person to die.

Now, as a teacher - and a substitute at that, it's not my job to undermine what parents have determined to teach their children. I did try to leave them with the thought that occasionally people really do need help. Their job as a child is to GET AN ADULT to help them. Their job when they are adults is to make sure people get help. Even if that means sometimes it's you doing the helping.

And I thought about what a scary world we live in. Scary because we have to teach our children to be constantly on guard from this kind of stuff. But really for me, even scarier that we have taught them so well to protect themselves, that there is no room in their heads or hearts for idea that maybe others need protection and help, too.

It's getting scarier all the time, people.


Melissa said...

It is such a hard thing. Hubby picked up a hitch hiker one time... with the kids in the car. I freaked! Turned out it was a little old man who could barely walk... needed a ride to the gas station to make a phone call or something. I felt horrible for jumping down his throat, but on the other hand... I have a lot of the same fears that class expressed. Sad, eh?

Heather said...

I bet that was sort of akward...
Great lesson for all of us to remember though. I even find myself not stopping to help for the same reasons.

JustRandi said...

It's a hard thing. I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I certainly wouldn't want people hurt because they helped someone who ended up to be a bad guy.

You should definitely follow your gut.

I just think that we forget about our responsibility to at least try to SEND help,even if we don't feel like we can do it personally.

I can't imagine the desperation of needing help, and having everyone so paranoid that I couldn't get it.

I think its a scary place to be as a society.

kristen said...

How sad that kids have learned not to help a person in need. There's a difference between someone dying of hypothermia and picking up a hitch hiker (the latter of which I never do, because it's too risky).

There's people in need all over. I hope those kids don't grow up never lending a hand.

Kimberly said...

Scary indeed. =(

Yvonne said...

That must have been an eye-opening experience. We definitely live in a different world, but I think the bottom line is like you said) you follow your gut. I think "what if it were me, and I needed help), I certainly wouldn't want people to think I was just faking it.

Annie said...

That's something to think about.

madhousewife said...

That is just sad. A crucial footnote to all those lessons on personal safety. I don't know. I want my kids to be safe (heck, *I* want to be safe), but I don't want us to value our personal safety so much that we can't help or protect others.

Janell said...

Once I read a scathing editorial in a newspaper where a man was criticizing the general population for forcing him to wait 45 minutes on the highway by his broken down car before help arrived. My only thought was, "I wouldn't've stopped because he could be a killer."

I figure my karma balanced when I gave a ride to a girl who had been sludging through an early snow in a short skirt and open-toed shoes. She looked absolutely frozen and completely harmless. What's kinda funny is that she accepted the ride, but talked to her mom on her cellphone the entire time =)