Some of you may be familiar with that show “What Would You Do?” It’s aired since 2008, and the premise of every episode of this hidden camera show is to stage awkward or scary situations in public and gauge people’s reactions. Basically, they test the waters of where human kindness and decency lie.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched a few episodes and thought to yourself, “Sure, a person eventually stood up and said or did the right thing in that moment, but what would I do? What if I misread the situation and get all up in somebody’s business for no reason?”
In 2017, we like to leave people alone, and we like to be left alone. But, as the TV show illustrates, that’s not always beneficial.
I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll get to the point. The other day, I left my apartment for work. When I locked my apartment door, I noticed that my neighbor across the hall had his door open. I didn’t think anything of it, but I just glanced in as I walked by to be cordial and wave to him if he was sitting in plain view. He wasn’t, so I walked out the front door.
I got maybe 15 yards from the front of the building when I heard someone shout, “Hey!”
I turned around. It was my neighbor. He stood in the doorway and motioned for me to come closer. I smiled and walked to him, figuring he had a question for me about who the new tenant will be in a few weeks when I move out or something related to that.
“What’s up?” I said.
He didn’t return my smile. “Are you okay?” he asked.
These days, when someone asks me that, they’re usually referring to how my sanity is holding up with the wedding planning. Assuming that’s what he meant, I just sighed and said, “Yeah, I’m good, I guess.”
“No, you’re not,” he said.
I tried to put on my best smile and began to think I just looked really sad and that was the reason for his insistence that I wasn’t okay. “No, really. I’m doing fine.”
He shook his head and pointed to my aviators.
“Take off your sunglasses.”
Okay, so now I’m totally confused. The last time someone ordered me to take off my sunglasses, I ended up engaged to him. But I decided to comply because I couldn’t imagine what he was going to say next.
I removed my glasses, and a look of realization passed over his face.
“Ohhh! That’s your makeup,” he said. When I didn’t say anything, he explained. “I just barely saw you as you walked by the door and I thought I saw a bruise on your cheek.”
My blush. He meant my blush. I had to laugh at that. I reassured him again that everything was fine.
“But, seriously, thank you for looking out for me,” I said.
“For sure,” he responded. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
Was that conversation slightly awkward? Yes. Was his assumption right? No. But you know, I’m glad it happened.
I often heard the negative term “busybody” when I was growing up. I quickly learned that was not a title I wanted. When I’ve seen “What Would You Do?” I always think, “What would I do? Nothing. I’d be like those people sitting in the nearby booth who plainly show shock and outrage at the scene before them but leave the restaurant before anything worse happens.”
My neighbor is the other type of person. Sure, some people might label him a busybody, insist that it’s none of his business and that, if my fiance was truly beating me, I’d eventually have enough and go get help myself.
Maybe. Except that, statistically, one in three women (and one in seven men) have been victims of physical violence by their partner in their lifetime, and only 34 percent of people who are injured by their partner receive medical care for their injuries. Even if there aren’t bruises, nearly 50 percent of both women and men have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by a partner.
Are there flaws in the system? Yes. Do people make false reports? Yes. Does that mean there isn’t a problem? No.
Thankfully, my neighbor doesn’t care about being a busybody. Because even though he was wrong about me, he’ll be right about someone else. And that may make all the difference.
I realize this is a deviation from my usual topics on this blog, but since that conversation happened this week, it just brought it to the forefront of my mind, and I felt that it was important to share. If one in three women (and one in seven men) has been physically abused, that means several women (and men) reading this could have gone through that or are still going through it and don’t feel they can speak up. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to be one more person who urges a victim to seek help.
If you are experiencing physical, psychological or emotional abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.