Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Does it pay to be a good Samaritan? Last week on my way to work, I saw a gentleman leave his parked SUV unattended with the engine running, driver's side door open and the windows down. I was amazed that anyone would leave his vehicle unattended in New York City. I stood near the vehicle for about 10 minutes, waiting until the owner returned to his car. The gentleman gave me a slightly confused look -- he did not expect anyone to watch his vehicle. I told him that he should not leave his SUV unattended with the engine running. The man gave me the middle finger and drove off. What I thought was a good deed backfired on me. What should I have done? -- Do-gooder, New York City

DEAR DO-GOODER: What I have learned is that when you do a good deed, you must do it with no desire for something in return. You just do the good thing because it is the right thing to do. It was extremely thoughtful of you to stand near this man's car to protect it from being stolen.

Who knows what this man had in mind? He may have wanted the car to be stolen. He may have been so absent-minded that it did not occur to him that he had left the car on and unattended. Clearly, he made an unwise decision -- for many reasons. In a big city, leaving a car unattended and running is foolish. It is also environmentally unsound. This man may have been embarrassed to be found out to be as unconscious as he was.

As far as you are concerned, stating the obvious -- that the man should not leave his car unattended -- was unnecessary. But I would chalk up his bad manners to his overall unaware state. You did good!

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have thoughts on the overactive 6-year-old boy whose mother wrote to you. It may not be medication or lack of exercise that is his problem. Check what he is eating. My nephew's son, a first-grader, developed allergies to certain food dyes. Blue gives him headaches. Red, yellow and orange make him hyper. Many breakfast cereals contain these dyes. Read labels and try avoiding these dyes for a short time. It can't hurt, and it might even help. -- Hypervigilant, Racine, Wis.

DEAR HYPERVIGILANT: Thank you for this additional consideration. Recently, I met a young boy whose mother said he cannot eat or drink anything that has food dye in it because it upsets his system.

What parents should do is consult with their pediatricians in detail to learn what options are available for overactive children. Find a doctor who is conservative when it comes to prescribing mood-altering drugs. Often there are less-aggressive options to help children be healthy and at ease in their bodies.