I was driving down the street near my home last month when I spotted something unusual near the road, something that was moving.

At first, I thought it was a large dog that had been hit. But as I drove closer, I saw it was a person in black clothing, laying on the sidewalk, rolling uncontrollably, inching closer to the curb and the busy roadside. As I passed by, I noticed it was a man — a baseball hat had fallen off his head and a metal cane was strewn nearby.

Something was wrong.

And yet, cars sped past on the busy thoroughfare. It was lunchtime on a weekday, people had places to go, perhaps they were so busy they didn’t see. Perhaps they didn’t want to stop — the man laid on the sidewalk in a “bad” part of town. Maybe they thought somebody else would help. Maybe they just didn’t see.

But I did see. I debated my options. I couldn’t stop immediately because there was nowhere to park. My kids weren’t in the car, and although I was late to get back to work, I had to do something. I pulled my into the next side road a block away, threw my minivan into park and got out running — although admittedly not very fast, since I was in heels and a dress. I had my phone in hand, about to call 911, as my chest started to burn and my heart throbbed.

And although it didn’t take me more than a minute to get to the man, scenarios ran in my head. I was sure he had had a stroke, or a heart attack, or — I’m ashamed to even say it — I wondered if he had been shot.

But I ran.

And when I did to get to him, the large elderly man was disoriented from a fall. He explained he had a medical condition that impairs him physically. He should have gotten his walker, he explained, acting somewhat embarrassed. He had been rolling, unable to sit himself up.

I asked him to hold on to my arm as I threw my weight backward, trying to help the man sit up right, and then stand back up, but he had injured his leg, which was scraped. Blood oozed from a tear in his pants.

Surely another car will stop, I thought. Surely someone else will help. But no one did.

Getting the man to his feet proved problematic. I asked him to throw his arm over my shoulder as I huddled around him, in an attempt to put his weight onto his good knee. It took a few tries, but it worked. The man, who was likely in his late 70s, was larger than me, but not by much. He propped one side of his body on me, with his arm around my shoulder, using the cane in his other hand for balance.

Lucky for both of us, he lived only a few yards away. I walked him to his door, asked him if he wanted me to call the paramedics or a family member, and when he said no, I told him to have a good day.

And as I left, the burning in my chest continued. I couldn’t help but think of that man, and what could have been, and thanked God that it wasn’t worse. But I also couldn’t help but wonder if something like that happened to my father, who lives alone on the West Coast — would anyone stop? Would anyone notice?

It’s been a few weeks, but I think about that incident often. It was a bit of a wake-up call.

So often, I go about in life consumed with my to-do lists, which run long with a family of five; My mind is often occupied with grocery shopping and laundry, with taking the kids to school or to soccer practice. It’s easy to get distracted, keeping up with the running Christmas lists or the flurry of activities that come with this time of year.

But that man on the side of the road made me realize that sometimes we need to stop and open our eyes. Sometimes, people don’t ask for help, but help is needed anyway. That may mean helping a local family after a house fire; donating toys to children at Christmas, or something as simple as giving someone your umbrella to someone who needs it more on a rainy day.

It’s a lesson that I hope that I can do a better job modeling for my own children — not just this Christmas, but every day.

This holiday season, be thankful for your family and friends. Enjoy your time together, and be thankful for the joy in your life. But if you see someone in need, help them. It may not be convenient or comfortable. It may not be easy. But sometimes a simple act of kindness can be a reminder of the importance of serving others — because some day, you might be the one who needs the help.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.