When I was in my final year of high school and I was on my way to rehearsal when I saw a little girl in the hallway behind the theatre, crying. She was about eight and I went over to her to ask what was wrong. She said her mother was supposed to pick her up a half an hour before that (why she was being picked up at a high school when she was 8, I still do not know) and she was scared that her mother had been in a car accident. I asked if her mother had a cell phone and she nodded, so I led the poor girl through to the speech office so she could try calling her mother.
When there was no answer, and the girl started crying again, I told her we should go out to where she was supposed to be picked up and I would wait with her.
I ended up waiting with her for nearly 45 minutes. I kept her calmer than she probably would have been by talking about stupid things and telling her ridiculous stories about myself and my very strange friends. Her mother eventually came by and the girl hugged me and they went on their way. I have no idea why the mother was late, or what happened, but I never saw the girl again and I don't remember her name.
What I do remember, was that I was late to my rehearsal. I knew I would be, and since one of the advantages of my crazy brain is that it traps things inside its cage of memory, I had the entire play memorized already so I figured it would be okay. The director wasn't pleased however, and he informed me of this. I told him I had been waiting with a scared, little girl, and he asked me why that was my responsibility.
You know...if that's how you think, then I guess it wasn't. My responsibility was to my cast mates and my director and despite the fact that I was never late before and always went above and beyond to help and be do whatever I could to move the production forward, I was still late this time and that had inconvenienced people. I still feel like the right thing to do was to stay with the poor girl. What about my responsibility to help out another human being; to care for someone who was scared and alone? If I had been that scared little girl, I would hope someone would have extended the same kindness to me. I just apologized and we got on with it, but I never really forgot that.
I'm not someone who can pass people by. Which is why I am the one who ends up sitting with the homeless person on the street who passed out and hit their head on the pavement so hard they are bleeding into their eyes, while they wait (for over an hour) for the ambulance to come. The amount of people who walked by that day, averting their eyes so they didn't have to see, makes me feel ashamed. I don't ever want to be that kind of person. It's why I'm doing what I'm doing, despite the fact that I am not okay. The helping people is as natural as breathing. It's not going out of my way, because helping people is my way. It's everything else that's the problem. Forcing myself to leave my home, when it's the only place that I feel safe. Forcing myself to talk to people, even though I'm terrified of it. All that functioning as if I don't panic about every little thing, that's the hard part. It makes me feel like I have no right to act like I could actually help. I feel barely human. Sometimes I feel like giving up. But I won't. I can't. I'm taking responsibility. I just wish it wasn't so hard.