The Day I Broke Social Distancing Rules

I’m not one for breaking rules. In fact, when I found myself walking my dog in a ‘No dogs allowed’ park once, I went and handed myself in! And when it comes to wearing masks and keeping to social distancing rules during lockdown, I’ve been about as stringent as you can be. So as you’ll see, a recent event has been weighing on my mind.

The Dilemma

It happened one recent Tuesday morning as I was, again, walking the dog. As I turned a corner I came across a woman I’ll call Cindy, leaning against a wall and motioning for help. I had seen Cindy around the neighbourhood—she had a mild learning disability and used a walker, but now her words were slurred. She was drunk—something I’d never seen of her before—and was about to fall over. I rushed to help her hold onto her walker but she collapsed into my arms and slipped down to the ground.

I tried unsuccessfully to lift Cindy up. Thankfully, a guy I’ll call Ben came by and we got her up and started guiding her towards home, which was just across the road. As we walked, Cindy mumbled something about losing a mum and a sister to cancer, and now losing someone named Dave. A half-hour of swaying and stumbling later, we got Cindy safely home.

Main image: Rémi Walle Above: Forest Simon (creative commons)

About halfway through the ordeal Ben and I looked at each other holding Cindy upright. So much for social distancing. Cindy could’ve been unknowingly infected us, or we her. Maybe I should’ve called an ambulance instead and had their PPE-covered experts take her those few metres home. What would you have done in that situation?

A New Take on an Old Story

As I’ve wrestled with this dilemma, I’ve started to see the Good Samaritan story in a whole new light. You remember it: a man is beaten up and ‘left for dead’. A priest walks past and does nothing. A lawyer walks past and does nothing. Then a Samaritan comes by, picks the man up and takes him to safety. Interestingly, infection is part of the story. Back then it was thought that touching a dead body made you religiously ‘unclean’—you’d even have to self-isolate for doing so. And some thought you could be infected by being touched by a Samaritan too. But Jesus puts all that aside to give the moral of the story: the true neighbour stops and helps.

Social distancing rules are there for a reason. In hindsight, I probably should have called an ambulance to take Cindy home. But an ambulance worker couldn’t have arrived in time to catch her when she fell, and she couldn’t have been lifted off the cold ground without Ben’s help. We were always going to be implicated.

I’ve now come to accept that self-isolation may be the cost when a neighbour stops and helps.


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Comments:

  • April 7, 2021
    Edward Chapman

    As a former Police Officer I would probably have tried to offer immediate help but also called an Ambulance, not knowing what had caused her to be in that condition, she may have had a fall or a head injury, moving her may have exacerbated her condition I would have sought to keep her warm (some using form of blanket or Coat) and awake (regardless of social distancing.)

    reply
    • April 7, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      That’s helpful, thanks Edward. While it was clear Cindy was drunk, how did I really know what else was going on with her medically? Your approach makes sense.

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      • April 7, 2021
        Lesley Boyer

        Thank you, Sheridan, for sharing your experience and for asking for input.
        I would not have assumed that Cindy fell because she was drunk. It is possible for a person who smells of alcohol or who has a history of public intoxication, to ALSO have a medical or trauma-related reason for falling (e.g. low or high blood sugar, poor oxygenation, low blood pressure, a heart rate that is too slow or too fast, medication or recreational drug overdose, stroke, head trauma, dehydration, urinary tract infection). Therefore, after donning the mask I always carry, I would have done a quick assessment (airway, breathing, circulation) so that I would have had something of value to say to the 911 operator. Lastly, I would have waited with Cindy for the ambulance to arrive.
        All that said, Sheridan, you are to be commended for trying to help your neighbor. And what greater love can we show than to do the best we can with what we have at the time we have it in service of those whom Jesus loves?

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        • April 7, 2021
          Sheridan Voysey

          That’s very helpful, Lesley. Thanks for ommenting.

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          • April 8, 2021
            Lesley Boyer

            You are welcome. Thank you for asking.
            “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend,” Proverbs 27:17.

  • April 7, 2021
    Elizabeth

    Thank you Sheridan. I would have done EXACTLY what you did! Rushed in to help, and only later stopped to reflect that I might have a) broken the rules b) done her some further damage (as Edward points out above)
    Thank you for this reflection. In my opinion the Good Samaritan approach should always be our default position, albeit with caution and asking the HS for wisdom in each situation.

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    • April 7, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      I think you’re right. The temptation here was that Cindy needed to be safe at home, and that home was no more than 80 steps away across the road. What a dilemma such moments present to us at present!

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  • April 7, 2021
    Siân

    Martin Luther wrote about avoiding the spread of contagion during the plague outbreak of 1527, but he also said – If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely.
    Cindy was blessed by your presence.
    A couple of (FFP2) masks in your pocket might have helped! And Edward makes an excellent point.

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    • April 7, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      Yes, I only take a mask when I know I’m going to be near others – at the shops, walking into town etc – not walking the dog early in the morning when no one is around. Keeping a mask in the pocket always is a great idea.

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  • April 7, 2021
    Miranda

    I would have done exactly the same thing as the ambulance may have been delayed, so I suspect a risk benefit analysis would be in your favour.

    Besides , I think when it comes to social distancing very few people would be in any position to cast the first stone, certainly not me.

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    • April 7, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      Ha! Good point.

      reply
  • April 7, 2021
    Robert Blackman

    Sounds like the situation happened so fast that you had little time to step-by-step think out a logical response. You did a quick assessment (80 feet from her house) & jumped in to help. The woman was in immediate distress. Benefits here outweighed risk. You did the right thing. No second-guessing yourself!

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    • April 7, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      Thanks Robert. It was definitely a fast-moving situation.

      reply
  • April 8, 2021
    Gerard Pereira aka Popsy Pereira

    Hi Sheridan
    I feel that “Do unto others as you would like others do unto you” is the best resolution statement and it is the empowerment and encouragement from Jesus who put His life in the line of fire from customary standards and outdated practices. However in the blessed world that we live in, we could act impulsively and be judged. But again there is another powerful statement “Do not judge and you will not be judged” So no judgement here but as we can see that you were all out to help and that is your natural instinct as a human being with a Good Samaritan heart! So God bless you!

    reply
    • April 8, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      Thanks Gerard.

      reply
  • April 8, 2021
    Hugh Funk

    You did exactly the right thing, Sheridan. Refer to Psalm 91 regarding the protective covering during a plague. At the beginning of the pandemic, I declared this protection, and He has honored it . Also, all who belong to Him, I believe, are always covered by His precious Blood.

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    • April 8, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      I’m really glad you’ve stayed safe, Hugh. Unfortunately, I know several families personally who’ve lost loved ones to Covid.

      reply
  • April 21, 2021
    Sam

    I would have done exactly the same Sheridan and I believe Jesus would too.
    I can’t imagine Jesus would have put his PPE on to tend to the lepers or the many people that he healed. The fact that Cindy was motioning for help suggests that she needed you at that moment in that place regardless of the social boundaries. Jesus wouldn’t have walked away from that situation regardless of the risks and are we not called to be more like Him?
    He also broke the rules when He felt that it was necessary! And this sounds like it was necessary to me…but that’s just my opinion.

    reply

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