Do the Right Thing

On my drive to and from work I pass a river that runs through a park. Swans and geese dot the shore, while fishermen, hikers, and the occasional ultimate frisbeer scamper through the long grasses. It’s also a common hangout for cops, so I’m always careful to drive close to the speed limit.

Yesterday on my way back from lunch, I followed the meandering road, happy that the sun had finally come out and melted the last of the snow, when movement at the edge of the drop-off leading to the river caught my eye. Three boys no older than nine or ten held up their hands, waving for me to stop. Two held fishing poles, and from the flush of their cheeks it seemed they’d been outside most of the morning.

A million thoughts zipped through my mind as I slowed to a stop.

Is someone hurt?

What if their friend fell in the lake and is drowning?

Can I pull a boy from freezing water?

I’d jump in, right?

Or is someone else around that could help me?

What if it’s a trap?

They’re small, but there’s three of them, and there could be another hiding in the bushes.*

I pressed the button to roll down the window and leaned forward as one of the boys approached the car.

Is that fear in his eyes? Panic? Or something more sinister?

He cleared his throat and said, “Do you know what time it is?”

I paused for a heartbeat, then glanced at the clock on the dashboard. “One o’clock.”

He hollered thanks and ran back to his friends.

I felt a little silly for letting my imagination go into overdrive, but I’m glad I stopped. We hear about people not following their instincts, only to find out later that they could have helped someone, or prevented something awful from happening. Who knows, maybe I saved them from a wicked grounding.

Have you offered help when it would have been easier to continue on your way?

*(Yes, it was the middle of the day but three years of Mexico will do that to you)

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. An active imagination comes with the writing territory, Hoo. 😉

    I tend to help whenever I can, but there have been one or two when I’ve hesitated, then been pissed off at myself for doing so.

    These days you can never tell what may happen when you put yourself out there.


  2. Allen

    I stop when I can. I never really think of the danger, I guess. My Dad used to stop and help everyone he could. My grandmother used to feed everyone who came in the yard, gave work to bums for meals, and gave rides to people thumbing down the road. I learned a lot from them.

    I must say, though, I probably would have scolded them for not being in school.


    • In their defense, it’s spring break this week. 🙂 Of course that was the thought I forgot to include in my recreation. I DID think that!

      I think it’s great you come from a family that tries to help others. I’ve certainly been in situations where I’ve needed the kindness of a stranger.

  3. Yep, I always stop. Recently it was for a man on a motorcycle who had tipped over at the stop sign at the bottom of our mountain. Visions of a man who burst into flames when his motorcycle leaked gas all over his pants then ignited in front of me years ago ripped through my memory and I was nearly out of the car and yelling at the girls to call 911.

    He had only caught his boot on the side of the motorcycle.

    I may need therapy.

  4. I’m a helper too. Its hard to live in Portland and not go with the flow of helpers. Most everyone stops to let people in line, offer assistance, open doors, lifting kids onto swings…. its just the MO around here. It threw me off when I first moved here, because people in So. Cal don’t do that. (Too many litigious folks who are always in a hurry) But in Oregon.. MOST people are very friendly. The rest are crazy loons, which is why I still have the same feelings you did. I’ll assess the situation before placing myself in a vulnerable position.

    • You’ve talked about that before, and it IS one thing I like about living here, as opposed to a bigger city. People are much more willing to help one another.

      Today on my drive home a big giant pickup truck slammed on its brakes to let a little duck waddle past. Very cute.

  5. q

    Your mistake was making eye contact, Hoo.
    Never make eye contact.

    Next you’ll tell us you smiled as you rolled your window down.

    Pfft. Pathetic.

  6. I love the thought, “What if it’s a trap?” Hahaha! *gasp*

    I’m a crazy helper. I help people who don’t even want to be helped. The other day I was at the post office and a little old lady went up and down the line asking for a cell phone because her car broke down. I helped her call AAA, and sat her down to wait for them. The guys at the post office declared me the official post office doctor. They told me it’s a thankless job with no perks. I accepted it anyway. You only live once.

  7. Melanie, this is hilarious. I just had to join in on the comments so you have someone else on your paranoid side! 😉 And I never even lived in Mexico–I grew up about a block away from Chicago so perhaps that’s similar, lol. I now live in suburbia and people here are helpers. But it’s hard for me to de-program the city mentality, since it’s been hardwired in from birth.

    Great & honest post! I think b/c it was young boys it made me giggle all the more.

    Overactive imaginations aside, I *do* hope I would do the right thing. I’d like to think I would, if I was ever in a…situation. Maybe.

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