Dear Dr. Laura,
I was raised to be my brother's keeper so to speak, and because of my experience of being a paramedic I often stop at accidents to provide first-aid and comfort.
The most difficult intervention was not due to an accident. One afternoon I was taking my young son for a walk in his stroller, when I noticed a commotion at the end of the block in front of me. I resisted the urge to retreat and kept walking - hoping every moment that a teacher or security officer from the school next door would arrive and resolve the situation. No such luck, and a minute later I was asking a young child if he knew the man who had taken his candy. The child said, "No," and the man told me to mind my own business. The man took a few threatening steps toward me. This was my moment of truth. I took a deep breath and did everything else I could to make my self look bigger, then told him in the deepest voice I could muster, "Every child's safety is every parent's responsibility. Now give him his candy and get the hell out of here."
The man continued to approach me, certain I was bluffing. I kept pretending I wasn't scared, and then I walked towards him! I jerked the candy out of his hand and gave it to the little boy. When I looked at the man again and repeated that he needed to go away, he seemed to have lost his confidence, and ran away.
I, as a grown woman, was scared, I was also worried about putting my own child at risk, but I could not avoid stepping in when I saw the man trying to get the child to follow him for his candy. I kept hoping a neighbor, the principal, or anybody would show up, but the street seemed unnaturally empty. The poor little boy must have been terrified, and I felt woefully unequipped to protect him.
During future walks with my son I carried pepper spray and a rat-tail comb, but I never saw that evil person again.