Expectation vs Reality

I think I'm a good person. I try to make honest decisions, be courteous to the people I meet, and put a dollar in the tip jar when I'm able. I don't use my smartphone in the bathroom during exams (partly because I don't have a smartphone) and I always hold the door open for people behind me. This winter, I gave a blanket to a homeless man named David. I haven't seen him since, but he seemed to appreciate it at the time. Sometimes,  I pick up litter. This piteous attempt to catalogue my alright deeds isn't totally aimless. Well, maybe a little bit, but I do have a point to make. I want to think I'm the type of person who does the right thing when given a choice. I imagine that I'm the type of person who does the right thing, even when it isn't altogether pleasant or convenient to do so.

I literally imagine it.

Sometimes before I go to bed I think about courageously intervening in a vicious playground pile-on -- "How dare you! He's not a Fatty-McGordo! And even if he is a little chubby, you're rotten for bothering him about it. Stop it right now you horrible rascals. Yeah, you better run!. . . Kid, can I get you an ice cream cone?". . . or maybe I find an injured bird on the side of a busy street and nurse it back to health or completely incapacitate a heavily-armed maniac and save dozens of lives or something . . . . you get the picture.

Today I realized that's not quite the case.

I saw a very pregnant woman smoking a cigarette, and I did nothing.

Well, that's not quite true. I turned my head to gawk in judgmental astonishment as I passed her. I told myself she wasn't pregnant -- that this otherwise thin woman just had incredibly baby-gestating-like (but still non-baby-gestating) stomach-girth accumulation patterns. Then I assured myself that she was an actor wearing a strap-on belly, and there were hidden cameras from What Would You Do? with John Quinones stationed behind the bushes. Then I hoped that she was an actor wearing a strap-on belly and there were hidden cameras from What Would You Do? with John Quinones stationed behind the bushes -- because I would rather be shamed for my failure to act on a popular hidden-camera TV show than that failure doom an unborn child to extra-small emphysema. Finally, I told myself that even if I should've said something, I was already two blocks away and rushing to a final. I simply did not have the time to go back and intervene.

That was the moment I had to acknowledge that I'm not as good as I imagine myself to be. I had failed all of my brilliantly virtuous hypotheticals. I don't know what would have been the best way to deal with Ms. Prego Puffer, but I know that walking quickly past her wasn't it. I didn't do The Right Thing -- not because I couldn't have, but because The Right Thing would have been awkward and seemed totally overbearing and may have made me late for my final.

I don't mean to overblow this -- this little fault by omission. I do worse stuff all the time. But the incident made me appreciate that I can't just presume that I'll do the good, hard thing -- I have to actually do it. I have to work to be the person I think I am. This is one of the blessed few areas where I have the power to make my reality align a bit more closely with my high expectations, and I'm a fool if I pass up that opportunity. So here's hoping that I never again see a pregnant lady smoking (but if I do, I stop and say "excuse me m'am, but I really don't think you should be doing that in your condition" in a super judgmental tone of voice).