While I was at the airport today, I saw a man who looked to be in his sixties looking very distraught. His eyes were red and he looked like he had been crying. He held his hand over his mouth as if he were trying to contain his sadness. I followed him for a short bit and wanted to reach out and see what was the matter. It’s times like these when you want to do the “right thing,” but you end up not being quite sure whether directly approaching someone like that is appropriate. I kept my eye on him as he stood near a pay phone with one hand on the wall as if to steady himself. It looked less like a medical emergency and more like an emotional one.
I looked around and noticed a “Travelers Aid” desk right behind me. Detroit has a big airport and it seemed to be more than just a coincidence that there was a help desk right near where someone might need some assistance. I walked up to the desk and asked the agent there if he could see the man standing near the pay phone. He replied that he could. I mentioned that the man looked distressed or maybe ill and may need some attention. The agent thanked me, promptly got up and walked towards the man. By this time the man had made his way to the escalator and was going down. I followed both the man and the agent. Once the agent caught up to him, he carefully put his hand on the man’s shoulder and began to talk to him. I was actually rather touched by the physical gesture and concern shown by the agent. It was clear to me that the agent saw the same look of despair that I did. I could not hear what was being said, but the man began to smile and he reassured the agent that he was alright. I continued to follow the man, but eventually lost him in the crowd.
I guess it’s OK not knowing exactly what to do in situations like that, as long as you do something. If you are unable or unsure on how to help, get someone who can. Helping out in any way possible is always appropriate. I’m glad I did.
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