Daily Archives: March 14, 2011

Make the Call, or Not at All?

This week I’ve been mulling. And I’m not talking about cider.

I’m debating whether to deliver a rather unwelcome report. If I go through with it, someone who needs help is more likely to get it, and people who could get hurt are less vulnerable. Yet I won’t be a hero, because it’s not news anyone wants to hear. There’s no advantage to me or my family by making the call. In fact, there could be backlash. But I know what’s the right thing to do.

It’s not the first time I’ve brooded over something like this. I imagine you, too, have found yourself in these sticky situations before. When a good deed involves telling people bad news – but you’re convinced in the long run it will help, or save them a lot of grief – it’s a toughie. But is there really any choice? (My apologies for sounding like a Carrie Bradshaw voiceover.)

Ten years ago I suspected my friend’s bright, handsome young son had a form of autism. I had worked in the disability field for quite some time, and I recognized a handful of signs. But I didn’t tell her for a very long time. True, I didn’t want to cause her pain. If I’m being totally honest, though, I also didn’t want to be the person who delivered the message. What if she hated me for it? It wasn’t until she finally voiced her own concerns that my husband and I shared what we thought. Turned out my friend craved answers, and appreciated the information we sent her.

Since then, I’ve gently spoken to at least three other parents of very young kids who showed signs of disability. It’s such a recurring theme that it’s almost a joke, except it’s not. The parents’ reactions have varied – from total denial to utter openness – but I haven’t regretted these conversations, because I believe each one has helped at least a tiny bit.

A few weeks ago, a colleague on Facebook complained publicly of some unexplained medical symptoms. I don’t know her well, but I knew enough about her history to know what her risks were. I dithered – because how do you tell someone she may have a serious liver disease? But in the end I decided to send her a private message. She was gracious, and agreed with my suspicions. She could easily have told me to soak my head. But it wouldn’t have killed me to hear that, either.

And I guess that’s how you make this kind of decision. You weigh your own risks against the risks of not telling. Then the right move becomes pretty easy to figure out.

Have you ever found yourself struggling in a situation like this? If so, what did the magic eight ball tell you to do?