Wait, you might be thinking. Haven’t you been talking all along about everyone’s inherent divinity? How everyone deserves help, compassion, forgiveness? Doesn’t this idea of personal protection go against all that? Doesn’t everyone deserve protection?
There are three circumstances in which I extend protection. The first circumstance is danger. If a child is about to run in front of a car, if someone is being assaulted, if someone is about to cause an accident that will get them seriously hurt, I will interfere. I’ll ask first if there’s time. But I believe we should all be looking out for each other, so I’ll help even if there’s not time to ask. The caveat is that, if I don’t know you and your circumstance/reactions, the danger has to be serious.
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t ask if the circumstances are less serious. If I notice someone I perceive to be struggling, I can and often do ask if they need help. I try to be specific. “Do you need a hand?” to someone wrestling to get all their bags on the bus. “Do you need directions?” to the befuddled folks at the train station. “Is this guy bothering you?” (loudly, so the guy in question knows he’s been noticed) to the woman trying to walk away from a man on the street. And so on. In essence, I’m guessing at what will make someone’s life easier and asking for confirmation before I proceed.
The third place I extend protection has to do with communities rather than people. Many communities, both ones I belong to and ones I don’t, are vulnerable. I listen for where their boundaries are and take the actions I can to protect them. This might mean marching for Black Lives Matter, writing letters to prisoners, volunteering at a food bank, or calling people by their correct pronouns. Protecting communities as well as people is another way I stand strong.
How do you protect people you don’t know? Share in the comments!