5 Simple Rules for Living and Leading

by Alli Polin on November 7, 2017

As I drove slowly down the street, through the neighborhood, on my way home, I saw a woman who I assumed was walking her dog up ahead. She stood motionless, silent, and looked like she was waiting. As I neared, she walked away, no dog in tow. 

When I was even with where she had just left, I saw a boy, a teenager, laying on the sidewalk next to his bike, cradling his arm. As I contemplated stopping, I still inched down the road. In my rearview mirror, I saw a woman on her bike, who I passed seconds earlier, turn towards him and jump off. 

Thank goodness she stopped to help, I thought. 

But she didn’t. 

I saw her open the gate next to where he was lying, and walk into the front yard of her destination. 

The crossroad was up ahead. The kid would be fine. He probably had a phone. There were people who lived there who would surely help him. People were on their way to work. He had to live nearby; we live in a small town. 

At the crossroad, instead of continuing forward, deeper into the network of streets that would take me home,  I turned around my car. 

I pulled up next to him. He was no longer in the fetal position but was now sitting up, red-faced, fighting tears. 

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied. 

“Can I call someone for you?”

“No, thanks. I’m good.”

“It’s no problem. Can I help you?”

“No, I’m good. Thanks.”

In my rearview mirror, I watched him as I approached the next crossroad and got ready to turn around once more. By the time I passed him again, he was standing up and walking his bike. There was also a couple who had come out of their home across the street that looked at me as I passed and looked at the teenager too. 

Once home, I still hoped that someone else checked in with him too. Could be that the couple standing on the street called after him. Perhaps he did have a phone on him and called his parents. Maybe he eventually got on his bike again and went to school, arriving late and getting a detention. I’ll never know. The only thing I do know for sure is that I cared enough to stop.

5 Rules for Living and Leading

1) Stop when you see someone who’s hurting or needs help. Don’t assume someone else will. 

The biker, the dog walker, the kids in a nearby yard, the couple across the street… There were plenty of people who saw this kid in pain. I told myself that one of the five other people I saw in the span of 30 seconds would do what in my gut I knew I should do. Honor your gut and values – both are cornerstones of your personal leadership

2) Ask if you can help.

Don’t be the person who notices and keeps walking (or driving). If we all noticed and offered our hand to someone who was down, we’d all rise. It’s not invading someone’s privacy to ask how you can help. It’s letting them know that you’re there if they need you.  

3) Respect them if told, “no” and do what you can when you get a “yes.”

I wanted to help this boy, but he told me he didn’t need my help. He wanted to get up on his own. The Mom in me surreptitiously made sure he could stand and didn’t collapse because his leg was broken. It was all I could do. No matter how much I wanted to make things better for him, he wanted to make things better for himself. 

4) Remember the Golden Rule.

In case you don’t know it, it’s “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Would I want someone to check in on me? My child? Yes and yes. Don’t forget to put out into the world what you want to receive.

5) Don’t just drive away. 

Most of the time, we’re not in our cars when we approach someone to help. Our offers are not made in passing. We know the people on our teams, in our families and our lives. Ask again. Follow up; continue to turn around at those crossroads. 

What would you add? What would you have done in this situation?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Gruber November 7, 2017 at 7:11 am

Ah ha, the John Quinones of Australia! Great story and images, your writing as a portrait of what happened. Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot had that talent in a book she wrote called “The Good High School.” Beyond your gift of story telling, your question sparks numerous responses in me.
1. I would have done what you did and I would have asked him where he lived.
2. I might follow up with a knock on the door and share my concern with a parent, if there was one at home.
3. I would ask my kids if they were in the car with me or later if not, what they would have done. Then have a conversation about helping others.
4. I try to help give people what they need, not necessarily what they’re asking for if it’s money. If they need food, I’ll get it. If they need clothes, I’ll find some. If they need a haircut, I’ll pay the barber or hairdresser. If they need a job, I know where there’s good work to be done. Etc.
5. Finally, I’ve found that when I ask people to tell me their name and I tell them mine, suddenly we have a different kind of connection and a story often follows.
Thanks, Alli, for priming my pump this morning!


Alli Polin November 8, 2017 at 6:24 pm

Love your suggestions here – especially telling him your name and asking his name. Also, we have something else in common. When I’m asked to give money, I offer to buy what they need. Sometimes they decline because they weren’t really after food. Other times, I’ve gone to the grocery store with them.

I’m also thinking what I want to tell my child about telling a stranger their address. I definitely see your point. A few years ago someone helped my child when he fell on his bike. However, my son got in his truck (he was working on a property next to where my son fell) this man cleaned and bandaged his cuts and then threw his bike into the back of the truck and drove him the rest of the way to school. The school called me when a stranger walked him into the office. We’re taught to be so wary of strangers, we had long talks about his decision that day, I wonder where trust, suspicion and a genuine desire to help intersect and which road to take.

Appreciate your insights here, Gary!



Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ November 7, 2017 at 8:21 am

Dear Alli,
You strike right to the heart of our purpose in life — to be together, work together, help together, respect together, honor together, and make life better together.

Your story is real, moving, and revealing.

Great post,


Alli Polin November 8, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Well said, Kate! Life is nothing without seeing and building connection with the other humans around us.




Terri Klass November 7, 2017 at 9:17 am

Excellent post with a powerful story and lessons you share with us today! It can be so much easier to just say that when something doesn’t seem right doesn’t mean we should get involved. But we are all part of the larger human race.

Several times I have witnessed lost children in stores and I quickly find authorities to page the parent. I stay with the child until they are found.

All of your wisdom points to having heart and caring about one another.

Thanks Alli and will share today!


Alli Polin November 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm

That’s one of the things I love about you… when you see someone who needs help or support, you’re there.

Thanks, Terri!



John Bennett November 7, 2017 at 10:51 am

Taking the “LEAP” is the right thing to do, always … As you so clearly point out, what if it were you, a family member, a friend??? Thanks for the reminder. The benefit to the person in need is obvious. What’s not obvious but very true is that you will also benefit immensely!


Alli Polin November 8, 2017 at 6:29 pm

You’re right, John. There’s definitely a benefit to the helper. Even in my case, where he declined assistance.

Thanks so much!



LaRae Quy November 7, 2017 at 8:05 pm

A very inspirational story, Alli. You’re an amazing observer of life! I’ve been there and assumed that “someone else would step up and do the right thing. I had places to go and things to do.” In reality, those choices create the person we become. I choose to let another to attend a person in need, or I choose to be the person to attend someone in need. A great reminder…


Alli Polin November 8, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Those choices do indeed create the person we become. Every choice adds up. Even more than a pat on a back for me, I wonder about all of those people who looked at him and kept going. I wonder how many times that has been me…

Thanks, LaRae.



Chery Gegelman November 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Beautiful story and critically important points Alli! So glad you turned around and stopped. And not surprised that you did.

One of my neighbors in Saudi was from Oz. One weekend in Bahrain she was faced with choice like that. A fully covered mother was arrested at the hotel for some very inappropriate behavior. But her young children were left behind with no family members to attend to them.

Although my neighbor was a stranger to them she stepped in and kept them company and waited hours for the other parent to arrive.

In the midst of the waiting – the oldest child called her names because they did not share the same faith, or dress code. And she still chose to stay to make sure those children were safe.


Alli Polin November 9, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Wow, your neighbor was a strong woman who had a clear sense of what’s right. To step in for those children was a big choice. To stay even when harassed, that’s commitment to her values and says a lot about who she is. I hope that when that child, the oldest, gets even older, they will remember that time in the hotel lobby and maybe in even a small way it will transform their life.

Thank you so much for sharing her story!



Ron Schalow November 10, 2017 at 8:27 am

Thank you for sharing this powerful story. To mw, this is another reminder that being a modern-day Good Samaritan never goes out of style. Your actions that day deserve recognition and high praise. What would our world be like if such actions were the norm and not the exception? I have to wonder just how many others passed by that young man lying on the sidewalk.


Alli Polin November 13, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Ron, Thanks so much for reading and for your comment too. You asked, “What would our world be like if such actions were the norm and not the exception?” That’s a great question. All I know is that it’s a world where I want to live and show up every day. I hope that one day we’ll all get to find out.

With gratitude,



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