The Boy Who Tried To Help
When I was 12 years old, I was accosted by a group of teenage boys. It was a beautiful day and I was riding my bike with a friend on a country road, in my hometown, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. My friend sensed danger and got away. I did not. The boys formed an arc with their bikes across the road, blocking my path. The ringleader was a cocky kid who laughed and carried on as he instructed his friends to hold my hands behind my back. I was bewildered – not sure what was happening. I laughed with them, until I realized this wasn’t a joke. I tried to pull away and started screaming and crying but the boys held me while the others shoved their hands up my shirt. I remember there was a boy who tried to help. He yelled at his friends to stop and he tried to push them off me but he couldn’t. He locked eyes with my crying eyes -and it was as if he was saying to me silently – this is wrong, I am sorry.
I don’t know how long it lasted – 15-20 minutes. When I got home, my friend was there and my mother was frantic, on the phone with the police. My mother loaded us both into the station wagon and barreled down the road, the police car in hot pursuit. I have an image seared into my memory like a movie in slow-motion – our screams as we spot the boys, spitting gravel as our station wagon careens up their driveway, the piercing burst of the police siren, and the look of shock on the boys’ faces as they turn – slowly – to see their fate drive into view.
I remember being red with tears and shame as the Police Chief asked me what had happened and clutching my mother’s hand tightly. I remember making a very clear request: There was a boy who tried to help. Please don’t let anything happen to him. Even then, I sensed the importance of that boy’s actions. He had tried to help me. I wanted to be sure I did my part to help him.
In the years since that event, I have thought many times about those boys and why they did what they did. I have wondered if they suffered anything stronger than a stern warning from the police. I wondered if they got married and had children – and if in having children, they ever reflected on their actions. I have hoped that their crime began and ended with me – that they didn’t go on to repeat those actions or do anything worse.
I have wanted most of all to say thank you to that boy who tried to help me. I wanted him to know that even though he couldn’t stop what happened –his actions told me that I mattered – and awakened in me a sense that we are in the world to help each other. If we can do something to help someone, we must do it. We must lend our voices and our hearts to the world. That boy could have stayed silent but he didn’t. His actions were simple and humane and they taught me that caring is better than not caring -that the smallest gesture is better than no gesture at all.
If I could track him down today, I would tell him of the role he played in my life – how because of him I have never stopped wanting to help. It is what I try to remember each time I work with a client or seek to make a difference in the world. Never underestimate your value or the good you can do. Never doubt that your heart can be someone’s saving grace.