Mike Dilbeck, founder of RESPONSE ABILITY, described his friend as a hero after his friend did something for him that he didn’t have to. His friend had thrown him a surprise party, gathering their classmates to have a celebration of how proud they were of him. As I sat listening to his story, I found myself remembering Laura doing that for me. Laura has been my best friend since I met her in the third grade. Only after a dinner event had been cancelled that I found out it was actually a surprise birthday party for me. Laura called my friends and carried out the event as though she had planned it. She brought over pasta and cooked for all of us. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. She made my night. 

Dilbeck gave an inspiring speech to WCU students, informing us of how to not be a bystander. He taught lessons that are never too late to learn and never to late for someone to recognize as lacking a voice when they could have spoken up. He got students in the audience to think of a time they could have acted, when they didn’t. I’m sure I’ve been a bystander in the past and I didn’t react when someone needed help. In fact, I know I have been. But that was then, it matters what we do now, Dilbeck ensured those in the audience. He’s right, we can change our actions. We don’t have to be by-standers anymore. 

I think one of the most valid points he made, encourages people to get over the fear of others when stepping up to help a friend, classmate, stranger, or whoever the person may be. He tells people to go beyond the barriers. He referred to someone taking action as an everyday hero. What he had to say made so much sense, that I think people will take action the next time they see something that needs to be addressed. The next time they see an altercation, they won’t be a bystander, they will be an everyday hero. 

Recently, after seeing an altercation escalade, I watched as people tried to break up a fight. My friends and I stopped walking, mostly due to shock, to watch what would happen next. People were yelling and their friends were threatening to call the police. Noticing alcohol bottles covering the porch they were hollering on, my friends and I felt uncomfortable as we watched the group migrate to the parking lot. One person, who clearly had consumed alcohol, got into his car and turned on the car. I heard a friend say something about a drunk driver and I reached for my cell phone. 

I’m sure most of the people there have a cell phone. Every one of my friends did too. And I’m sure everyone behind us, also watching from a distance, has a cell phone. I wasn’t going to put us in physical danger by intervening, but I could prevent someone else from being in harm’s way of a drunk driver. I called it in to the police as my friends and I walked away. No one there had to see that I called it in. But I couldn’t just walk away without doing something at least. After hearing Dilbeck speak, I’m glad to realize I was not a bystander that night. 

When Dilbeck presented typical thoughts of a bystander, I found them to be such a scary reality. We think someone else will do something. But what if no one does? It would take only one person to act. Sadly, it may be more common to hear a story of a person recalling no one helping them, rather than to hear a story of someone who did do something. 

Silence is the biggest way a person remains a bystander. I’m guilty too. Unfortunately it seems it takes real conflicts to understand how you can help someone. It could be as simple as asking someone to stop, or involving an authority figure, or it could be  as hard as needing an individual to take the matter into their own hands to stop it. As we grow up, we build confidence and learn how to deal with conflict in situations. Dilbeck reminded the audience, it would be simple to not be a bystander, but it won’t be easy. He encouraged everyone: be that one person that does react and that does help. You’ll feel better knowing you did what you could to help. You never know when or who will do the same for you.  

I’ll always remember the night I helped out one of my friends. Sometimes when we talk about this night, she would say we saved her life that night. When I tell the story, I say how I was there for a friend when she needed someone. Walking to her house in a blizzard gives the story credibility. In all honesty, another friend and I walked to her house despite the blizzard because we wanted to be with her when she needed someone to talk to. Even to this day I simply tell her, that’s what friends do for each other. I like to think Dilbeck would agree in the sense we did something we didn’t have to do. What happened that night saved a life and gave me another best friend.   

My friends and I tell each other that we can call each other, any time of day or night, if we ever need anything. Even if we don’t take one another up on this, it’s comforting having that option. It’s nice to know you can call someone who will help walk you through any given situation. I encourage everyone to make the pledge to be an everyday hero. 

Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth year student, majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.

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