Empathetic Strangers and a Fallen Man.

“Call 9-1-1” the woman screamed, and ran back out the door of the crowded café. Then someone else opened the café door and yelled “Does anyone know CPR? Who knows CPR?” Within seconds, 20 people ran out the door after her to see what the commotion was about and to try to help. At least 4 people grabbed their phones and called for emergency services. 

The folks who knew CPR pushed aside the onlookers and soon the man who had fallen to the ground was surrounded by people wishing (and willing) to help. A homeless man held up a shirt like an umbrella to shield the fallen man from the sun beating down on him. Another man cradled the man’s head while a woman took charge and tried to evaluate the situation.

I stayed in the café—peering outside and believing enough was being done by others, but feeling as emotionally connected as those outside. The fallen man could have been any of us, at any moment, who needs the immediate help of strangers around us. Even sitting in the café, my heart raced, and empathy filled my body to tears, hoping the man was OK.

Emergency services came, and in a matter of minutes, the man was getting up on his own accord, and laying down on the ambulance gurney. It struck me how young he was—late twenties probably, and looking otherwise healthy—other than the fact that he had just collapsed. It seems that he had some type of episode and fallen out of the chair where he was sitting. Someone in the crowd handed him his SF Giants baseball cap, which he clutched as the paramedics wheeled him into the truck on his way to the hospital.

All-in-all I was struck by the immediate and selfless compassion by so many, for a man no one at the café knew—but were now attached to in a deep and intimate way. None of us will ever know who the fallen man was, but we all hope that he is doing well—but for the grace of some carrying, empathetic strangers.

Helping a stanger image courtesy of Shutterstock

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