A few days ago, a man at a hostel was having violent seizures and heart arrhythmia, which is potentially fatal. The hostel manager didn’t take charge and the police didn’t take charge, so I lead the group of 20 guests who wanted to help the man. The hostel manager called the ambulance five or six times despite many guests begging him to call dozens of times. Two times he called, it was because I loudly and forcefully explained that because a man in his hostel might die, the manger must put more effort into preventing the death.
I hurt the manager’s feelings: on the next day, the hostel kicked me out. (They didn’t fire the manager or change anything about the hostel.)
Yesterday, a random event triggered a very old memory of mine. I attended only the last 15 minutes of my prom. It was 1992, before cell phones or GPS. On the way to prom, my date and I came across some people who had been stranded in this rural area because of a flat tire they had been unable to change. As I recall, it took me two hours to overcome the many obstacles and change the tire. We had exactly one dance at our once-in-a-lifetime prom. Of course, we never again saw the people with the flat tire.
I’ve never regretted changing the tire instead of going to my prom. Full stop. There’s nothing to explain about that.
Until today, I had not even considered that I could have declined to help the man with the seizures. I feel silly for not realizing it was an option even though I certainly would have helped.
On the other hand, I feel stupid—I feel that I have been taken advantage of—because I have 27 years of habitually sacrificing my time and well-being to help strangers but for the last nine years, strangers, most friends, and my family leave me to rot.