“Someone should do something about that.”
Sometimes we have no choice but to be that someone.
I took a trip to South Korea in 2015, it was the first time I had ever traveled solo.
A significant event, a late night car crash on the streets of Seoul, made me choose between being an onlooker, saying “Someone should do something.” or being that someone.
After spending the night out, I was returning with a friend to their apartment when our taxi slowed through an intersection. I looked out the window to see a sports car flipped on its roof right in the middle of the intersection. With emergency services yet to arrive, and other cars moving nonchalantly around the scene, it seemed surreal. I took a photo of the car as our taxi slowed.
Realizing that emergency services weren’t yet on scene, I felt very sharply sober; thinking about the very real possibility that the occupants were still stuck in the now smoking car. I got out of the taxi without really having thought about what I would do.
I knelt down next to the open passenger side window to see both the driver and his girlfriend still hanging, upside down from their seat belts. The driver looked to be very drunk (turns out they both were) or unconscious but the passenger was crying and clearly panicking. I helped her unbuckle her seat belt before pulling her through the open window. She was bleeding from the ears and nose, from some ancient first aid training I remembered that this might indicate head trauma, so my friend lay her down with her head resting on her handbag well clear of the wreck and the steadily growing pool of petrol on the ground. By now our taxi driver had called emergency services who were on the way, but the driver was still stuck in the car.
Moving around to the driver side door, we found the window still in tact and the door closed. With the help of an onlooker, we finally managed to wrench the door open and we helped the man, now clearly intoxicated, from the car. Emergency services began to arrive and we left the scene, not wanting to deal with police or fire services that spoke as little English as we did Korean.
I’m not telling this story because I feel like I did something amazing; I’m sure they would have both been fine without our help. The reason I wanted to share this story is because we are living through a time where it is easier to be the onlooker, saying “Someone should do something about that.” instead of realizing that we are that someone.
That trip had a lot of other personal learning experiences for me, but this in particular stands out in my memory as something we can all potentially learn from. It’s not always going to be the case where we’re in a situation to help someone else through their shit; but at the very least we can start to take charge of our own shit.
We are the only ones who have the power to make meaningful change within our own lives. It’s a scary thought, but also an immensely powerful one when you realize that you have the ability to go from being an onlooker in your own life- watching it pass you by as you bemoan your problems- to being someone who can change everything.
Thanks for reading.