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The Parable of the First Responder

car-accident

Today, I want to offer you a simple parable. I will not be offering my interpretation just yet. However, I would be very appreciative to hear what yours might be. Keep in mind that a parable is a fictional metaphor. A story written for the purpose of demonstrating a moral or a point. Of course, I had to add that definition because based on the first comments, apparently lots of ornery people didn’t know that.

The Parable of the First Responder

Every time there is an accident, disaster, or medical emergency, somebody is always the first to show up. Whether it’s the fire department, an EMT, or a police officer. This person is known as the first responder. It is their duty to begin providing medical assistance and to call proper emergency units to the scene.

Barry was one such police officer who happened upon the scene of a very fresh, but very serious car accident. He pulled up to the wrecked vehicles, and grabbed his police radio. He reported to the dispatcher that there had been an accident, and that he would report back after he’d surveyed the scene. He replaced the radio and exited his squad car.

Several passer-bys had already gathered. Witnesses approached him and started spelling out everything they had seen, who they believed to be at fault, and the general condition of those involved.

He headed toward the wreckage and stopped as the dispatcher came back on the radio asking if further assistance was needed. He looked at the overturned car closest to him. It certainly wasn’t pretty. He looked at the people standing around him. They were watching his every move, ready for action, ready to offer assistance, some seemingly ready to pounce on him if he made a wrong move.

He went back to his car and radioed, “I’m going to see what everybody else thinks. I’ll get back to you.”

He stood listening to the conversations around him. From one woman he heard, If they don’t get an ambulance here soon, that girl is going to die. From others, why is he just standing there? It was true, he needed to call for assistance. The people involved in the wreck were helpless. They were suffering. The situation was not going to better itself.

But then Barry heard an angry man shout, only an idiot would do anything to help these clowns. Let them get themselves out of this mess, they got themselves into it! Barry stopped, and waited for more chatter from the crowd to tell him that this man was wrong, but nothing happened. Nobody said anything. Those who had desperately been wanting to assist the victims only moments earlier were now silent, stepping back as if they were suddenly scared of something. More people were gathering now. More people were waiting to see how it would all play out.

Barry was desperate to call in for more emergency caregivers, but he was fearful that those standing around would disagree with his choices. He was scared that the masses would get behind the angry man and hate him for doing what he felt was necessary.

Meanwhile, the people in the cars were screaming, bleeding, crying, and desperate.

Hundreds were now gathered. As the crowds grew, the angry man walked up to the smoking jumble of metal and declared it all to be the most ridiculous thing he’d ever seen. What kind of idiot would get themselves into this mess? he demanded of those within earshot.

And, nobody did anything. Nobody said anything.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

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157 comments
AngelDR
AngelDR

Something I already know. Always do what YOU feel is right no matter what others may think of you if you do. The only person you have to face everyday is YOU,

Sparrowchild
Sparrowchild

Many times we are wracked by self doubt which paralyses us with indecision. Instead of following what we know to be true, we hesitate and listen to what other people think. It's not until we get the validation we think we need that we are then able to proceed forward with what we knew was right in the first place. And by then...it could be too late.

Annonymous
Annonymous

"Barry" is our current President, the accident victims are our economy/unemployed/uninsured/etc,. and the nay-sayer is the current political opposition.  The silent by standers are all of the rest of us. Sad, actually.  

Erin Cunningham
Erin Cunningham

As an EMT I can relate to this story. Despite all the training we receive and all the confidence we seem to have, I always wonder what if. Did I make the right decision. Time is key which is one of the absolute first things you learn in any first responder or EMT course, also I can't help but wonder why dispatch wouldn't send more people regardless of the police officers opinion because in a situation where there would be multiple calls they should automatically dispatch multiple units apparatus be it an ambo or an engine. I can relate to the thoughts but if this police officer was really so hesitant and waiting on bystanders decisions I would think 1) he should never have gotten through the police academy and 2) his ass should be sued for gross negligence. Just my 2 cents.

LeenKM
LeenKM

As I read, I began to see this particular scenario as not probable, but could relate to what I see as the core issue - giving more importance to what others think/say than to my what my heart/instinct tells me.  Then, having reason to regret that later, thinking I should have just "gone with my gut".

MelanieThompson
MelanieThompson

with the whole story set aside, many, if not most, of the comments here prove it is easy to criticize a situation when one is not part of it. 

kangamom
kangamom

The meaning to me is that you should not second guess you're own convictions and wait around for others to decide what you should do.  Listen to your convictions, help those in need and don't let the "popular" vote sway you in your actions.  You have to be willing to stand up and do what is "right" instead of doing what is "popular". 

As I read this, I realized it could apply to so many issues in society today (and in the past for that matter) and I'm glad that I was raised and continue to be someone who will stand up for what I know is "right". 

Karen Alexander
Karen Alexander

definitely a story with a very male spin ... a female culture is to give of self (you have to with children! Only a guy would hesitate... just MHO....actually, on second thought, a totally illogical parable... A true parable had to have a bit of believability...this had none!

Jj Montague
Jj Montague

The choice of name for the police officer gives the whole "parable" a distasteful sense of the political. If you leave the police officer nameless and read it again, it comes across more as individual responsibility, peer pressure and the unwillingness to involve oneself in the plight of strangers while being fully willing to criticize and blame those who are willing to do so.

Dawn
Dawn

My reaction: poorly written piece of drivel. The parable is ineffective because it is totally implausible - no cop would just stand there. They are trained over and over again until the rote response overrides the paralysis of panic.

Jaalah Mallaby
Jaalah Mallaby

time lost and life lost... Whilst I admit at times I fear standing up to a 'bystander' who will judge me, and the group that will form in agreement, ultimately my instinct would be to do the right thing, the compassionate thing... :)

Mel Pi
Mel Pi

That's silly. If anybody had meant to help, they could have called the ambulances themselves.

Meg
Meg

One- Barry should not be in a position of power, he doesn't trust his own judgement. Two, it is every human beings responsibility to give assistance to others, regardless of why they need it (the angry man's opinion of their imbecility). Three, it is not up to us to make decisions that affect whether people live or die,(in instances such as car accidents) we need to take all steps necessary to preserve life, we do not need public approval to guide us in our actions (in emergency situations). I abhor people who stand back and wait for others to act, I abhor those who will stand back and do nothing for fear of becoming involved (such as cases of abuse). We should allow ourselves the opportunity of being a responsible citizen of the earth. We should all be first responders, in every situation that requires action to be taken to allow each and everyone of us to live with dignity, freedom and peace.

K
K

I have no problem being the one to call for help and step in to assist. I hope others would do the same. Is the alternative the demise of our society?

melon
melon

Once a guy in my office was choking on celery. Literally choking, no noise coming out, turning blue. In an office full of burly men and a bunch of other normal sized folks, no one stepped forward to help this man. So I attempted my best at a hemlich maneuver while shouting to the next available person to hurry up and call 911. 

Long story short, the people I asked to call 911 were paralysed with not knowing how to do it (really?!) and I had to scream at another coworker to take over the hemlich because the guy choking nearly weighed twice as much as me. 

In the end, a guy did take over and managed to dislodge the celery. 911 eventually was dialled. The paramedics turned up. The guy was embarrased he had choked and wouldnt go with them. Then after he threatened to SUE ME because he had bruised ribs from trying to save him. Obviously his ego was also bruised but my lesson learned was unless you are a trained paramedic, forget trying to save someone and just call the professionals yourself. 


N
N

hmm, we all think that if it were us, we would call for help now matter what, but when actually faced with this issue, it only takes one person to either cause everyone to either help or ignore the situation.  Mob mentality actually does take over. We have seen it many times in the media where people have an opportunity to help or make a difference in a serious situation, but for whatever reason they keep on going, acting like nothing is happening.  But let's not forget the group of people that helped lift that burning car off the motorcyclist.  Priceless.

Heather Miller
Heather Miller

Professional 1st responders should be the ones directing, not waiting, in the crowd, etc. If a professional 1st responder needs to wait for "the crowd" to give her permission to call in the needed support, then that 1st responder needs to consider a new career field. And if there's a crowd and no 1st responder yet, anyone present can and should help to their ability. This is why in CPR for the professional rescuer (lifeguards take this course) they tell the person to point to someone, and say - "You, call 911" and so forth. There's stories of children taking a basic 1st aid/CPR course and saving their parents, or sibling's life within a week of the course. It's about calm, confidence, and a wee bit of training if you're not a professional 1st responder. And if you are, good grief, you should not be waiting on the crowd to give you direction if you come up on a wreck.

Tony Legg
Tony Legg

Shakespeare wrote "this above all else: to thine own self be true." If I wait for permission to do what I know to be right, someone may suffer... precious time could be wasted and life could slip away...

EmilyJaycox
EmilyJaycox

too often we judge people who are hurting and in need of help instead of just doing what is right and lending a hand - the person might be homeless, a drug addict, or a prostitute, but society says, the got themselves into it, they should get themselves out. But it isn't our place to decide who deserves help.

BTlover
BTlover

As in all life situations people are afraid. Afraid of what others will think, of what others will feel, do or say because of your actions.  I agree with @soldiermomof3  " Always do the right thing "


soldiermomof3
soldiermomof3

There is a saying I learned in the Army.."Always do the right thing, even when nobody is looking".

  To me, this scenario says....

 "Always do the right thing, even if EVERYONE is looking"

Emily
Emily

I think this parable has lots of different meanings and I like the interpretations some people have offered. Especially that when we are faced with a decision of true significance, our gut usually tells us the right thing to do and we should listen. "Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Based on the rough day I just had at work, I have another interpretation to offer. The parable can make you think about those situations in your life or work - whatever they may be for you - where the right course of action is not obvious but you feel crushing pressure to make the right decision so you totally blow things out of proportion in your head. Reading this gave me perspective and reminded me that I'm not making any life-or-death decisions, so I should just get on with it and stop suffering from paralysis by analysis. "Most stress is caused by people who overestimate the importance of their problems." -Michael LeBoeuf

Marion
Marion

Well said Bonnie!

peggysgems
peggysgems

We all know in our hearts what the right thing to do is.  We can choose to do it or to allow the masses or at least the approval of the masses to dictate our actions.  Everyone is waiting for someone ELSE to do what we all know is the right thing to do so we will not be criticized.

If we would just do it, ALL just do it, or at least make a move one of us to do it, the rest would follow.  It just takes one person to change the world!

Bonnie
Bonnie

Too often, we wait for someone from the crowd to direct our actions. We all have the power to act. We must be brave enough to do so, even when the crowd may judge us. It is unlikely most people will ever have to make a decision that could save someone's life, or cause a death, but by remaining silent we may be outwardly condoning the mistreatment, neglect, or hurt of another person. The loudest voice isn't always the best one.

LyllieSkye
LyllieSkye

It's about the doubt we, as human beings, all share of doing or saying the wrong thing but we have to realize that that doubt is okay. That doubt makes us better people and helps us evaluate situations. But we need to face that doubt and conquer it. Your action or words could be the difference between life and death for someone whether it be a kind word to someone who's looking miserable, helping someone who can't afford to buy milk for their small child, to performing life saving measures in an emergency. The smallest words or actions can end up talking someone off the ledge they're on. So don't hesitate to give someone a smile or do a good deed for someone or try to help in an emergency because you could make all the difference in someone's life. 

Crushed Lotus
Crushed Lotus

Too many complicated answers... The angry guy is the officer himself, and the fact we often hesitate to help someone who's in pain because we judge them for making stupid decisions and 'getting themselves into that mess'. Are people going to think we condone their mistakes if we help? How do other people see the situation and how do they think we should respond? 

The person that died, represents the trust that will die when the person we had counted on to 'just do something' hesitates and gives priority to his own judgements and other people's opinions, when we need help the most. 

MHO

Trent Jt
Trent Jt

Actually, what is a "parable?" Sorry, English is my third language so I have yet to learn the meaning of this term.

ACT
ACT

Act.  It could mean the difference in the person's life that you save.  

I had an experience when multiple people (who later admitted to knowing CPR) stood around and waited for someone to show up and help.  They let a man (David) sit in the heat of his work truck slumped over the steering wheel after suffering what seemed to be a cardiac event.  

They asked if I was going to move him out of the truck.  There was no way that one woman was going to successfully move a 200+ pound man.  Once I gave direction, people started acting.  Two men got him out of the truck and onto the group so CPR could begin.  Sometimes you just need to help others do the right thing.  Don't be shy, sometimes your role will be manager.  Every little bit helps.

Fortunately, the ambulance showed up shortly thereafter.  I don't know if he made it (darned HIPAA laws), but I hope that I made a difference.

CynthiaWray
CynthiaWray

I think that this parable has to do with self-doubt and a general unwillingness to stand up for what is right in response to a dissenting voice.  This parable, in my opinion, speaks to the state of our nation in current times.  There are so many issues today that need to be addressed, and addressed comprehensively and immediately...yet the naysayers are louder and often so vitriolic in their dissent that those that are concerned simply step back and say to themselves, 'What could I really do to make a difference?'.   

The state of our educational system is one example.  Today's educational system is failing our children and in doing so is failing our hope for the future of our nation.  People know what can and should be changed to improve this situation.  Research demonstrates this as well.  Other nations have models that work well and could be used as a basis for improving our own system.  But instead, the voices that call out, 'Not with my tax dollars' or 'No child left behind' or even 'Teachers suck'' tend to be the ones that are listened to and so our laws and policies become even worse and worse, leaving even more children undereducated, disenfranchised and disillusioned.

Education is just one area this is evident in America today.  Equal marriage rights, gun control, politics in general, health care coverage, racism and prejudice, welfare agencies...the list goes on and on.  Yet the truth is that we all do have the power to make a difference.  This nation was set up to make that possible.  Sure there are hurdles and barriers that must be overcome but unless one acts, one is simply following in the footsteps of the first responder in this parable.

Susan.
Susan.

Never second guess yourself or listen to negativity when you know in your heart and in your gut that what you are doing is the right thing. Never let ANYONE stop you from doing good.

NicholasWGervais
NicholasWGervais

I feel as though its a question of missed purpose.  I have noticed that its exceedingly rare that people ask themselves the right questions in life to make the important moments like this one count.  Wouldn't be the first time I've seen it.

bbmused
bbmused

For me, the parable is about the choices we make regarding which inner voices we give attention to, and the consequences of those choices.  In this instance, I saw the voice of the Authentic Self, which is loving and of service to myself and others (and which instinctively *feels* right when I hear it).  In the angry man, I saw the voice of the Ego, which is one of judgment and separation, and can cause me to question the intuitive knowing of the Authentic Self.  My listening to my Ego rather than my Authentic Self comes at great cost; certainly not always as dramatic as in the parable, but a cost nonetheless.

Vicki
Vicki

From the time the officer got to the wreck and started listening to the opinions of the people in the crowd, I was so upset I didn't even want to keep reading. I thought "What's the matter with him? What difference does it make what anyone thinks?" His job is to save lives. Period. He needs to shut that devil up and do what he knows God would want him to do. 

Bethany Freebury
Bethany Freebury

It's a parable, so the angry man I'm guessing is Satan trying to lead the first responder astray instead of doing what he knows is right and the.person in the crowd yelling do something would be God or Jesus trying to get them to do what was right.

Crystal Rivers
Crystal Rivers

Can't even answer the question because too many emotions flood over me. My husband lost his best friend in a car wreck, she was also a friend of mine. Then my senior year one of my best friends died in a car wreck, possibly because someone hesitated to call 911 when they saw our other friend standing there at their door at 2am covered in blood, with a broken knee, and later come to find out a chipped spine. They wanted to call their friend who was a nurse first and ask her what they should do. Of course she told her to get off the phone and call 911, while my best friend was back in the car dying. Then right after I had my son I decided my best friend was going to be his God mother and when he was just 2 months old she got in a wreck and died. I spent my birthday that year getting ready for the best friend I have ever had funeral. My life has never been the same and ironically I JUST got home from visiting her grave. My son is now almost 3 years old and not a single day goes by that I don't cry from the pain I feel from losing her. Plus in the mix of all those deaths my dad died of heart failure.

StefanieNelson
StefanieNelson

It's about the fact that so many know what the "right thing" to do is, but they're led astray by what others may think. It also shows how there are often many others who feel the same way, but wait for approval or permission before voicing it. Once ONE person stands up and ACTUALLY DOES something, many more follow. I know, bc I'm usually that person who says the things no one else wants to say, but they are things that NEED to be said (or in the case of this story, done). I've heard this feedback my entire life. There will always be "bad guys", and sometimes they will hamper the actions of others, but you need to overcome that. This can be applied and compared to so many areas of life and happenings in the world. It's a great story to make you think.

CWB
CWB

I think this story is a reflection of society and the fear of being a 'first responder'... or first anything. The fact that it was a policeman in the story identifies a lack of confidence and authority in a trying situation with a possible traumatic outcome.  Often people feel it is  better to wait for someone else to make the big decision or take the first step, it denies all accountability. Ironically, those people who do not want to be first responders have no problem judging or challenging those who do. The ability to stand alone with an opinion, and action, or a voice, is a quality that has become deeply buried inside many people. Fear of being judged, ridiculed, and persecuted has become an all too familiar way of life. As I respond to this post, it also occurs to me that such judgments are no longer localized within our own communities, but exponentially to the masses through technology. It is a fishbowl society that we live in and with that comes an altered moral dynamic.

AlecPlayer
AlecPlayer

First off, a definition: par·a·ble/ˈparəbəl/ Noun A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

I feel the whole point of the parable is to show how ridiculous and detrimental conforming to peer pressure can be. People would die if a first responder behaved in the way most people behave every single day. How much damage are you doing to yourself, others, and the world at large by basing your behavior on the (assumed) opinions of others?

I can in a moment imagine a million ways in which I personally have paused due to social "norms". I have seen others do nothing in terrible situations. Why? How often could terrible things be stopped if one person would just do something? So I'm going to share a few situations that come to mind.

Animal abuse: When I was a kid I was just coming out of a zoo with my family and another family we had gone there with. Several of the kids from the other family, while waiting for everyone to get together so we could leave, began throwing rocks at squirrels in a tree nearby. I immediately yelled at them to stop, then in aggressive teen fashion promised to throw a rock of equal size ratio at them if they did not. I wonder.. how often have you seen cruelty towards animals or even other people and said and done nothing? One may claim it's none of your business, but it is another living creature unable to defend itself. If not you, who?

Child molestation: My family has a long history of molestation. My uncle molested my cousins. My cousin molested other cousins. It's a cycle we are desperately trying to stop by no longer being silent. But there is one thing that's always bothered me. It could have been stopped. My aunt could have stopped it and she didn't. Others probably saw something, heard something and did nothing. People I loved will be emotionally damaged for life because no one did ANYTHING. Honestly I feel my aunt is just as responsible as the abuser because she stood by and allowed it to happen.

Inequality and prejudice: This is a big one. This is what I first thought of when I read the parable. People are ignorant. Everyone is. I am. It's part of being human. But people don't have to stay ignorant. I have heard people say some seriously f-ed up stuff. And I haven't always had the guts to correct them or inform them. I have heard people say things that are wrong. Like hardcore, that is messed up, stereotypical, bs propaganda, wrong. Sometimes I have spoken up. Sometimes I've stayed silent, often out of fear of being ridiculed for how I think and feel, or for being "too serious", or a "know it all".
I can't say what the all encompassing "truth of the world" is. No one can (although many may claim to know). I can say what I feel is right, what studies have suggested is right, what seems to stay in line with my "do no harm, live and let live" life philosophy. I can tell people being gay has nothing to do with that big list of stereotypes they just ignorantly listed off as fact. I can call someone out when they make a sexist, racist, homophobic, rape culture, or otherwise bad joke. They may get mad at me. I've had people scoff, roll their eyes and say "Why do you always have to take everything so serious? It's just a joke. Lighten up." But it's not just a joke. Someones life COULD be at stake and you have the power to do what's right. Some gay kid could hear you making gay jokes and that could be the last straw that pushes him to kill himself. Some rapist could hear you joke about rape and get that little extra verification that rape is okay. That alcoholic may take one drink too many because we all joke about it. That couple could hear you joking or making light about spousal abuse so the abuser feels empowered and justified and the abused feels even more at fault and helpless/hopeless. 

I realize those are extreme ways of looking at things, but.. you don't know. You could save a life. Just by standing up for what you feel is right, even when everyone around you is staying silent.

Leo Fricker
Leo Fricker

"I will not be offering my interpretation just yet."

Hey Dan,

what was your response to the article?

sasplund
sasplund

The police officer represents the an ordinary person given an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. The police officer has a gut reaction to want to help, that is the training, that is the job. However, he stops to listen to what others think. The 'others' in the story could be politicians or could be society at large. We wait to see what is "right" according to others instead of doing what we know is right, that of helping others, no matter who they are. It exposes our willingness to wait and see at the risk of harm. Think of those starving in Africa or even in our own country. They did it themselves so we don't have to help them is what the dissenting voice called out. I think it is a call to action. If you see a wrong in the world, go with your gut instinct to help out and you may save a life.

Corky Hamilton Kawamura
Corky Hamilton Kawamura

At no time did I see "this is a real story" it's something to make one stop and think and to see how you would respond. ...so how would you respond? I would not have stood around waiting for the cop to get there in the first place, I would have already been rendering aid. So that's me and you?

amythommy
amythommy

@melon He would never have been able to sue you: Good Samaritan laws....keep being the person who takes action - the world needs you!

tdmana
tdmana

@melon you can save me any day. some people are just twerps

Crushed Lotus
Crushed Lotus

@Trent Jt A parable is story using real life scenarios to help someone understand an emotional concept.


CynthiaWray
CynthiaWray

@ACT This reminds me of a valuable lesson my son taught me while playing World of Warcraft, of all things.  He told me to start sending out messages telling other players what to do and describing what my player was doing during battleground pvp (player vs. player battles).  He reminded me that unless someone takes the lead and acts, large groups of people tend to mill around doing nothing concrete or useful.  Okay, the scenario involved a video game but the same principle holds true in real life.