Empathy in Ireland
Todd does the Right Thing
This story is set in Ireland. It comes from a town that has known unrest and internal battles over many years. It could equally be set in many places around the world where neighbours struggle for power.
The warring factions could always find excuses reaching back into history as to why they should hate each other. Gradually over time and with the determined wisdom of some politicians from both sides they finally made peace.
Barricades were taken down. It became easy to travel from the street to that street without worrying whether a bottle or worse would be thrown at you.
The schoolchildren found that they could play football matches against people who might in the past have come from the opposite side.
Now it didn’t seem to matter any more. Now they enjoyed their freedom to come and go, to mix and talk with whom ever they wanted.
The wiser ones decided it would be better not to ask a person if they were green or orange, if they were from the North or the South if they were Catholic or Protestant. Better not to know, those were only labels. People discovered that without labels they could just be friends.
After a soccer match one Sunday, Todd and his elder brother Leon were wandering home feeling good. Their team had won. They weren’t paying much attention to the road. Suddenly two cars came screaming towards them. One took a sharp right turn and disappeared up a side street and the other rammed into a lamp post. The boys were shocked, but ran towards the stricken car.
A youth was slumped over the steering wheel and a young child of no more than four years old was screaming in the back seat. The boys noticed that the car had harsh threatening slogans on the back window. The words used were the kind their mother told them never to use.
‘People who say that are no better than scum.’ she had said.
The street was deserted. It was a shopping area but everything was locked and shuttered, it being a Sunday afternoon.
‘ We’ve got to do something quick,’ said the older lad, ‘that kid might be strangled by his safety belt and the other needs hospital! You stay here and I’ll run and get help. Stop any passing cars and tell them what’s happened.’
The engine in the wrecked car had cut out so the was no chance of an explosion. Leon raced off leaving Todd to watch and wait. Todd tested the back door of the car. The child stopped screaming, he just sat looking terrified and dazed.
‘Are you hurting?’ asked Todd. The kid shook his head. ‘Is that safety belt cutting you?’
The child seemed puzzled. He looked down and pulled at the belt. It seemed loose enough. Todd looked over at the driver. Nothing he could do to help him. He was unconscious and Todd knew not to move a person if their bones might be broken. The child began to cry again, this time it was a frightened whimpering.
Todd came back to the child. ‘Take my hand,’ he said, ‘I promise you I’ll stay until help comes.’ The child grasped his hand and nodded. Todd could feel his own heart beating loudly in his chest, but he stayed put although he really wanted to run away and hide himself.
After what seemed like a long time the sound of a police siren cut through the air. Leon was sitting in the back of the police car with a policewoman. Two male officers leapt out of the front and ran to the battered car. An ambulance siren wailed in the distance.
‘You’ve done a great job there, Todd, is it? Good lad. Little ‘un must have been in a state when you got to him.’
Todd managed a half smile and anxiously looked over at the slumped figure in the front of the car.
‘Don’t worry about his brother, he still breathing. We’ll have him in the ambulance in two ticks. How about keeping the little fellow company while we take you to the police station for a statement? He seems to like you.’
They lifted the child from the car. He looked terrified.
‘Don‘t you fret Sonny, Todd will stay with you until we get your mam or dad to take you home. Is that all right with you Todd?’
‘Yes, yes, of course,’ said Todd, wondering what his own mother would think of her son for helping someone who was so obviously not on the same side as his mother had been all her life.
‘I will have to let my mam and dad know where I am,’ he said.
‘All done,’ said the policeman. ‘Your brother phoned them and they will be at the station waiting for you. As for the little lad here, we haven’t got a contact number to him yet. We have to go through his brother’s papers to get that.’
‘Oh I’ll wait with him, no problem,’ said Todd, looking down at the child clinging to his legs, ‘whatever my mam says!’
Todd’s parents were at the police station when the police car pulled up in the yard. His mother rushed over to him and hugged him.
‘I hear you’ve been a real hero today, Todd,’ she said. ‘ we’re really proud of you! So this is the little ‘un you’ve been looking after! I didn’t know my two boys could be so brave and clever. Well done! We’ll all wait until his mammy comes for him, then you can tell us all about it on the way home.’
Todd told his parents about the horrible sign in the back of the car and that he knew they must be from the ‘other side’, ‘But,’ he said ‘if I’d been in that car I wouldn’t have cared who saved me, I would just need to be saved!’
‘Quite right, Todd,’ said his dad, ‘We’re all the same under the skin; we’re just people who need to be saved every so often.’
A tear fell from his mother’s eyes as she realised the importance of what her youngest son had said and she felt ashamed of herself. She asked herself if she really would have walked away if she had been the one to find the car crashed into the lamp post.
- Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
- What happened as the boys were walking back home from the football match?
- What did they notice about the car which had crashed into the lamppost?
- How did they feel when they saw the crash?
- What did Leon do?
- What did Todd do?
- Why was Todd concerned about what his mother would think of the fact that he had helped the lads in the car.
- How did Todd feel about the situation? What did he feel like doing?
- Why do you think he stayed to keep an eye on the two in the car?
- How did his mother react when she saw him, was she happy or annoyed, or something else?
- What did his father think about people in general?
- What would you do in such a situation? Why?