By Tom Ehrich

A man slips on sidewalk ice in Manhattan and takes a tumble. A stranger walks over to him. What does he say?

"You fool! Trying to walk on ice wearing dress shoes!"

"You deserved that! Mend your ways!"

"Try a different street!"

No, none of those.

How about this: "Do you need help? What can I do?"

Pretty easy to figure that out.

But what if the tumble wasn't a slip on ice but a slip into poverty? Loss of job, health emergency, failed marriage, old age without savings, domestic violence, stress after military duty -- this is the "ice" on which many are slipping.

The self-righteous and hard-hearted are saying, in effect, "You fools!" Or, "You made this bed, now sleep in it." Or, "Change who you are."

What we should be saying is, "What can we do to help?" Pure and simple. Not because someone is plotting a big-government takeover, not because we want to reward sloth, not because we are "socialists" trying to stamp out free-market capitalism.

No, we offer to help because that is what civilized people do. In a family, in a village, in a large city, indeed in a nation, those who haven't fallen on the "ice" offer to help those who have fallen.

It isn't that complicated. We're all in this together. Over time, we tend to take turns needing help. Life is better when we honor our turn to give.