Not in my presence.

“Welcome to your CPR, AED and first aid training class,” the instructor beamed brightly.

Fluorescent lights simmered in the speckled ceiling.

Informational booklets arranged neatly across every desk.

“I’d like each of you to share your name and state why you decided to take this course,” the instructor continued.

“Let’s start with you, sir.”

“Sir” straightened up in his seat. He spoke slowly and deliberately.

“I am here because my brother went into cardiac arrest while walking down the street. There was a crowd of people around, so many people, and nobody did anything. Nobody knew how to help. Everyone was shocked. Just staring. They waited too long to call 911 and by the time the ambulance arrived, well…”

He didn’t need to finish the sentence.

We understood.

He continued:

“But even if I had been there with him, I would not have known what to do either. I would have been scared and confused just like everybody else. After what happened to my brother I decided: I will get trained. I will not watch anyone else die a preventable death. Not in my presence.”

For a moment, the room was silent and reverent.

His words seemed to echo through the windowless classroom, reverberating in our beating hearts, minds, each and every cell.

Not in my presence.

. . .

This is a fact:

It is easy to be a bystander in this world.

Easy to let other people deal with the big (and small) issues, clean up the messes, or make the emergency call.

Easy to tell ourselves “I can’t really make a difference” or “I just don’t know how to help.” (We all do this.)

Easy to be “passive bystanders” when it comes to our own personal goals and dreams, too. (“Oh, maybe next year…”)

Imagine, though, how radically our world would transform if we all chose the courageous, difficult path — not the easy one.

Imagine if we all unanimously decided:

I will not be a helpless bystander. That is not who I am.

I am making a solemn vow, a commitment, a “sacred contract,” to do my part in washing unnecessary suffering away from this world.

I will do whatever it takes — get training, practice daily, be braver, dig deep within myself — to leave the world in better condition than I found it.

On this, I swear.

There have been so many occasions in my life where I have played the role of “frightened, wilting bystander.” Checking out. Looking away. Burying my head in the sand. Refusing to speak up and say, “That’s unacceptable.” Unwilling to take a stand.

The next time I feel myself shrinking or silently praying that somebody else will “just deal with it,” I will remember this grieving man’s story, his courage, and his solemn promise.

Four powerful words:

Not in my presence.