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?

4 responses to “Make the Call, or Not at All?

  1. Melissa Sheldrick

    Sadly, I have to call Children’s Aid more often than anyone should. In my profession, children disclose a lot of information and it is my legal responsibility to follow up when I believe that the information they share is outside of “normal”. There are times when I put the legal obligation on the back shelf and truly consider the needs of the child. What will happen to the child? What will the parent think? Will the parent confront me? Will the police be involved? These questions are haunting and the fear of the answers don’t leave. The hardest part of making the call is picking up the phone and most of the time, the incident is a result of stress level in the home and poor parenting decisions. The Children’s Aid Society are experts at knowing when and how to respond in the best needs of the child and as difficult as it is to pick up that phone, not knowing what the implications will be, I know that I do so in the best interest of the child. Legal responsibilities aside, the child comes first, thereby removing the need for a magic 8 ball.

  2. It doesn’t work with relationships. No one wants to be told their spouse is cheating or abusive, or their daughter is pregnant or their kids are hanging out with a bad crowd. No elderly person ever wants to be told they can no longer live alone. You become the problem not the truth.

  3. These are all good points. It’s such a complex situation. You know the right thing to do… but you also know some people are going to end up unhappy, and may blame you. Thanks, both of you, for weighing in.

  4. Pingback: Excuse Me, But Your Cans are Uncovered | 50 Good Deeds

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