Keeping Open Ear for Call to Action

* Nancy Nevins ("Group Shouldn't Snicker at Person's Pain," March 17) has my sympathy in her guilt for the peer pressure which prevented her from rushing to help a naked woman outside the store who was walking along Pacific Coast Highway. I hope these peers are likewise ashamed of their inaction upon learning the woman had been beaten and evicted by a boyfriend! I'm not sure what I would have done under similar circumstances, but my daughters worry about my safety because of my good Samaritan tendencies.

Sometimes the "call to action" is not clear but equally disturbing, and this happened to me several days ago while I was in a local grocery store. It is normal for me to pay attention to children and smile at them, but I came to a halt at the sight of a little girl (perhaps 3 years old) in the "child seat" of a grocery cart being pushed by a woman. The child looked so frail and peaked that she captured my immediate concern. Just then, the child let out a whimper, and the woman said to her: "What is it with you?" and next repeated the question in a strained voice, this time cupping the child's chin in a grip so strong and an attitude so unloving that I expected abuse and prepared to take action. Instead, the woman saw my alarm and moved down the aisle as I watched and wondered what kind of a life this child lived.

If it is an abusive life, I have to hope family members or neighbors will contact the Child Abuse Registry. Violence done to adults with no one to come to their aid is bad enough; done to helpless children, inaction is criminal. To the tall, dark-haired woman in Albertson's on March 16, if you need help with your stress, I beg you to ask for it before a tragedy occurs. Ditto to the world out there: Enough harm can come to us from strangers, we need to be much more alert to the possibility of evil within family units.



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