As I was growing up I remember very clearly my parents admonition to “mind my own business” and “don’t stare – it’s rude”! Good manners were very important to them and since I wanted to please them they were important to me as well. Many of you probably remember being told the same thing. While I am still a big believer that good manners are important, I have to say that since coming to work at the WCA, my interpretation of when to follow these rules has changed a lot. Staring can still be very bad manners – but giving someone a solid stare because they are behaving badly in a public setting is not something I consider rude anymore. Furthermore, taking action and NOT “minding my own business” if someone is being hurt or otherwise mistreated in my presence – is also not rude but rather a sign of empathy and caring. While I would never encourage someone to put themselves at risk if they see violence being perpetrated, I do think we all have a responsibility to be more aware and know what options we have should we come across an individual that looks like they can use help. This can range from calling 911 on the cell phone most of us have handy, to handing the individual one of our “shoe cards” so they can make their own decision about whether they are ready to call us for services. The most important thing each of us can do is to be more aware – pay attention to the nuances in conversations or body language and be ready to offer resources if you think something might be amiss. If nothing is wrong, no one will be insulted to think you cared enough to try and help. If something IS wrong, think how trapped they feel that no one notices!
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