A while ago Wendy, Elli, and I were walking along the street heading to Elli's school. While crossing the road we passed a lady who was looking up into the air, stumbling around a little, and talking to herself. Her face made it clear that she was upset about something but she was acting very strangely. The street was crowded and everyone was just passing by ignoring her on their way. I was concerned that she wasn't getting out of the street and we stopped to watch to make sure she was going to make it to the sidewalk without incident.
Wendy walked away from Elli and I and began talking to the lady. I waited for a minute and then Wendy offered the lady her arm and they began to walk in the same direction we were going talking to each other quietly. A block later Wendy motioned for me to take Elli to school while she delivered the lady to her building. I dropped Elli off and met Wendy and I met up again, this time without our charges. Wendy told me that the lady was distraught having been through a terrible breakup the night before and having spent the entire intervening time drinking. Once delivered to her building she wandered in of her own accord though, so presumably she is fine.
Wendy asked me "Is it okay that I did that?" obviously thinking that I might have been worried about her safety, or thinking that we should have just left the lady alone. There is, I suppose, always some level of risk involved in walking up to a stranger, especially one who cannot keep themselves together enough to do simple things like crossing the street. I think we greatly overestimate that risk generally. Mostly people who act strangely aren't the slightest bit dangerous; I suspect in fact that the opposite is true.
My response was that of course is was okay, and in fact that action makes me damn proud. Taking the time and the risk in stepping up to help is a wonderful thing and I hope very much that Elli takes that lesson to heart. Seeing the world as a beautiful place and seeing people as being worth helping will lead to a happy life, I think, even if sometimes attempts to help do go a bit sour.