Would You Care for Someone Passed Out on the Sidewalk?

As I walked my dog last night I happened to pass my local parish in Woodside only to find a young man passed out cold on the sidewalk. My dog, Haze started to bark wildly as if he sensed something was wrong. I too, had a strange feeling about this. The man didn’t appear to bre breathing by my observation. The guy didn’t flinch when Haze barked pretty close to him and he didn’t respond to me yelling “Dude, are you OK?” So I called 911.

After a brief wait of about 15 minutes, the cops, fire department and paramedics arrived. They awakened the inebriated man and put him into their truck. A beer can casually rolled into the gutter after he stood up. Somewhat relieved, I began to walk home with Haze.

I wondered if anyone else bothered to consider what had happened to this man. The 911 operator asked if it looked like he had been assaulted. I replied no but that he wasn’t responding to any of my verbal cues and wasn’t moving.

The young man looked hispanic or perhaps Native American, I wondered if he was just drunk if I would be getting someone who may possibly be undocumented in trouble. On the other hand, if he were hurt or dead, he’d want someone to call the cops.

I was amazed at how many people never gave him a second look. It reminded me of the ABC show “What would you do?” And this clip in particular.

I say all this not to toot my own horn but rather because I find it hard to believe that I’m the only one who called 911. What if it were me and I just passed out on the sidewalk suddenly. Would anyone care?

I’m always amazed not at the fact that people pass by other people on the street but that they even have to think about what they should do here. In my case this evening I waited for the 911 cops to arrive and they didn’t seem to want to involve me nor know that I had tried to wake him up–they just walked past me and said “Thanks”.

While this seemed to be a case of someone just being young, drunk and stupid. What if it wasn’t? It seems to me that the story of the Good Samaritan is alive and well.

And perhaps that is Jesus’ point. We forget about people and relegate them to our own compartmentalized notions of who we think they are. He’s a drunk. He’s no good. He’s homeless, etc.

It shouldn’t be lost on anybody that I wasn’t willing to touch this man. I called 911 but I didn’t shake him or try to wake him with a nudge. My own concern needs to go deeper than that. And perhaps it is there that our fear restricts us from caring for people as well as we should.

Tonight let us pray for the ignored on the city streets and for the people who will die there tonight.

Join the Conversation


  1. What a post – it is a prophetic call that we all need to hear. How would we react? What would we do? Our society teaches us, with its rampant individualism, to "mind our own business." We are also given many doses of fear that might preclude us stopping, touching, interfering with others.Yet, Jesus' has always been pretty clear about what to do.And it remains always hard to do it.My prayers for that man.Fran


  2. Wow…it really is a testament to LIVING our faith. Recently, I had the experience of wondering why we practice if we don't live what we are praying. But I am happy to report 4 years ago after a severe miscarriage after release from the hospital, I went for a walk to Lake Merrit the next day. I over estimated my energy and was having a hard time walking home. Four people asked if I was ok, and one offered to drive me home. I was stunned and blessed. Bless you for calling…


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