I hesitated when I saw an elderly couple in the parking lot of Wal-Mart who clearly needed help.
Their car alarm was going off as loud as could be, and while she waited in the car with her perfect white curls, her husband, dressed in a cardigan and slacks, tried to stop the darn thing from blaring.
It was likely an easy fix. Most cars require the owner to unlock the driver’s side door with the key in order to quiet the alarm (assuming you don’t have a keyless entry). He was trying to free her from the passenger side, and it was clearly frustrating to him as he tried to find a way to unlock the door and help his wife like the gentleman he appeared to be.
Maybe I could have helped, and maybe not, but I wish I could have a “redo” of that moment.
I thought about it long after the opportunity had passed, and it reminded me of another incident. I was barely 6 years old when a few of us neighborhood kids decided to take a walk to the new pond just up the street and around the block.
The pond, which was actually a deep and dangerous reservoir basin, had been filling up for days. Independence and adventure called to us, as it often did. So with my older sister Jeannie, 7; younger sister Tami, 3; brother Todd, 5; and a neighborhood friend, David, 3; we were on an expedition to the pond with our sweaters in hand.
It did not take us long to find a pathway to the water’s edge that led to a steep, thrilling drop-off or to find rocks to roll in the water for the thrilling splash.
Soon the game of who could make the biggest splash with the rocks began. First the rocks were the size of golf balls, then baseballs. Oh, how they made a great entrance into the water.
While we older kids were celebrating our newly invented game, we didn’t notice David trying to throw a rock nearly the size of his head into the water. In a flash he was in the water and drowning.
The rock was too big, and he was too small. I saw his body floating in the water, and it was a terrifying moment — one that has burned its memory into my mind.
I screamed to my sister Jeannie — who was and still is — a heroine. In an instant she was down at the water’s edge trying all her tricks to get little David out of the water.
When nothing seemed to work from the bank, without thinking she made a split decision to jump in and save him.
And she did.
After several tense minutes, she pulled him out of the water, and they lay, both gasping for air in the cool of the entering night.
Then, drawing her red sweater around David, she led the pack of kids along the trails and back to the safety of home.
“I didn’t think about going to get some help because I knew he would be drowned before then,” she said to a newspaper reporter who interviewed her about the incident the following day.
That spring day there was no hesitation.
Now, 31 years later, not much has changed about Jeannie Johnson’s personality. As a former intelligence officer for the CIA and a current professor of political science at Utah State University, she still finds extraordinary ways to help others.
She is bold, beautiful and fearless — and still not afraid to jump.
Hesitation is delay, pause, doubt and indecision. It is reluctance and fear. We have the choice each day to help those in need, to skip hesitation and go right for the good stuff.
You may not be saving a life, but I can tell you that this Christmas season, if you listen to your heart and not to hesitation, you will find moments to show your true character.
And you won't have to ask for a “redo.”
Amy Wilde is a writer living in Brigham City, Utah. You can follow her blog, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.