Several months ago I was driving home from the store when I saw two men who had been riding bicycles punching and kicking a third man who was down on the ground next to his car at an intersection. Other cars drove by, but either no one saw what was happening or they didn't bother to stop.
I pulled up and got out of the car with my cellphone video turned on, prepared to enter into the fray if they didn't stop beating the man. Fortunately the physical abuse stopped, but not the verbal attacks.
I called the police, who responded with a helicopter and four squad cars in a matter of moments. I gave them my statement, handed my card to an officer and the victim's wife, and left the scene.
I live in the suburbs where my neighbors are sports figures and executives, and you never see this type of activity. I stopped because it was the right thing to do, but this is probably not the end of the story and I will continue to be involved because of the choices I made in a split second. The police officer asked if I really wanted to give a video statement because I might be called to testify later. I told him I knew exactly what I was committing to the moment I stopped to help.
In another situation, someone recently asked me to do something that I didn't agree with on a community project. The person's rationale was that no one else would know what I had done or why I had made certain choices. But I would know. Instead of going along, I proposed another option so everyone was working from the same set of rules from the outset.
As a mother of three, treating everyone fairly is pretty much ingrained in my DNA, and as a journalist, integrity is a critical aspect of who I am. It is reflected in the way I treat my sources and the way in which a story is reported. The ethics of a situation and the choices I make will matter long beyond the moment when I make a decision. Many describe ethics as doing the right thing when no one is looking and I would concur.
Our Iconoclast begins a six-part series this month on ethics — their role, value and how they affect the job that insurance professionals do every day.
The ethical choice isn't always the easiest or the most popular, but it is always the right one.
Patricia L. Harman is the editor-in-chief of Claims magazine. Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own.