Sunday, December 12, 2010

What would you do?

There's a question that floats around Doomer forums from time to time:

What do you do when your unprepared neighbor comes around to your doomstead, asking for handouts?

Often, they ask it as though it's never happened before.  They ask it as though it's in the far off SHTF future.  They ask it as though its a rhetorical question that most people have never faced in real life.

Actually, most people have faced it.  People have walked by panhandlers, seen the need for charitable donations, seen the unemployment numbers.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  That's a good thing to think about.

How do you act when you walk by the guys on the street begging for change?

Do you give to the United Way or your local food shelf?

Do you buy him a sandwich and a cup of coffee so he doesn't buy beer and smokes with your money?

Do you give him a dollar and hope he enjoys the joint he's going to buy from the local dealer to get through the night?

Do you give him one of your smokes because you spent the last of your money on them and its good karma to share?

Another question that makes the rounds, to jack up the emotional intensity, is what if the neighbors were actually starving children?

When I was in Haiti, I discovered exactly what I would do, confronted with starving children.

Children who came to our clinic were often more than malnourished, some were actually on the brink of death.

In the city, children would follow anyone with a white face around saying, in English, "Please, missus, I'm hungry.

I held my hands up, to show they were empty and said, "I got nothing."

No one gave the street beggars anything.  That was taking your life in your hands, Distributing anything was a risky business, it wasn't uncommon to get mobbed.

We treated the severely malnourished for worms, and we distributed things like vitamins when we could.

I handled the knowledge that, steps from my table, people were starving by being frugal with what we had. I took only what I needed and was grateful for every bite.  I focused on the fact that if I didn't feed myself, I was no good to them.

The first rule of emergency services and the last is; Do Not Become Another Casualty.

My coworkers had other ways to handle it.  Some of them adopted families or children and would bring them food.  I couldn't do that, my own internal sense of justice would require that, if I fed one of them, I'd have to feed all of them.

I focused on what I could do.  I could take care of their illnesses and their injuries.  I could give a sympathetic ear to their troubles.  I could catch babies.

One of my fellow aid workers was a lovely, kind young woman.  She was trying to help a mom who didn't have any milk, figure out how to re-lactate, that is to say get her breasts producing milk again.  This can be done, but its hard and requires mom to be dedicated.

As I talked to the mom, I realized that this woman was not dedicated.  Probably for reasons beyond her own control, she didn't have the wherewithal to do what she needed to do.  I explained patiently that she needed to keep baby with her 24/7 and give the baby the breast every time it opened its' mouth.  At least every two hours.

I explained how vital it was.  We had no formula to give the woman, so she was supplementing with Pedialyte.

My colleague was full of optimism, and in love with both the mom and the baby.  I gave the mom what advice I could and let it go.

I wonder sometimes how my colleague took the baby's death.  I never asked her and she wasn't on my team, so I don't talk to her now.

Sometimes I feel hard hearted.  I am a person who is slow to warm up to people.  I don't bond easily.  It protects me in places like that.  I don't make myself another casualty and I can turn around to treat (and maybe save) the next dying baby that way.


Randy McCall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy McCall said...

There's an old saying in the field:

"Sometimes all you can do is be there".

Anonymous said...

So. . . still confused. Are you taking me in, or not? :)