July 24, 2013

Sometimes, it's better not to help.

Written by  Russell Bowen

One of the things I love about my office is that it is close enough to my house that I can walk to work. When I looked for office space a couple years ago, the most important criterion was that the office must be within walking distance of my house. I frequently enjoy the exercise and time to contemplate life during the 40 minutes it takes to get from home to work. In fact, some of my musings come from these strolls.

My walk home takes me across a pretty cool creek and through an outdoor shopping mall that includes our Trader Joe's grocery store and a Bruegger's coffee shop. Overall, life is good!

I recently had an educational moment while walking home (yes, even instructors learn things sometimes, too). As I was crossing the creek, I noticed an elderly woman picking the honeysuckle flowers growing along the railing next to the sidewalk above the creek. She was wearing open sandals, perfect for the beautiful weather of the day. However, I also noticed that she was stepping in poison ivy while picking the flowers. She appeared to be oblivious to the proximity of the toxic plant.

I kept walking, but turned back after going about another 100 yards. Maybe she was unaware of the potential rash resulting from touching or handling poison ivy. My "safety-first" conscience started getting the better of me and I decided to warn her.

Well, the lady did not speak English, and I did not speak her language. I gestured to her, pointing to the plant and rubbing my arms to indicate that the plant would likely cause a skin rash. She looked at me inquisitively. She offered me a couple of honeysuckle flowers, but I declined. Again, I pointed to the poison ivy and tried to show concern. She clearly did not understand what I was trying to say. To my horror, I watched as she picked a few of the poison ivy leaves and rubbed them vigorously between her hands. Ugh! What had I done?!

"Ahhhhh!!!," I exclaimed. No, no, no. I tried to again indicate that she should not touch the plant. She just looked at me and shrugged.

At this point, I decided it would be better to leave her alone. I had probably already done enough damage. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes it is better to leave well enough alone.

Actually, as I finish writing this post, I've determined a better course of action. Since this was the second time I met someone who was unaware of poison ivy at that railing, clearly there needs to be a safety warning posted. I will print out a color photo of the plant with a big red slash, mount this in a plastic sleeve and attach it to the railing. Maybe I can find a way to help educate others and keep the scratching at a minimum!

Read 3758 times Updated on July 24, 2013