17 June 2013

Not-So-Innocent Bystanders

     A friend related a story once about a time his car had died and the battery needed a jump. He stood there, jumper cables in hand, trying to get someone to stop. He thought about all the times he had seen people on the side of the road and had not stopped, thinking someone else would, or that someone else could do it better. Now he was standing there, hoping that one of the hundreds of cars that drove by would stop. He didn't need somebody certified, qualified, or experienced, he just needed somebody. He had the jumper cables and all he needed was another car to hook them up to. After that day, he became more willing to help others, or at least offer. You do what you can, and if you find that you don't have a clue, then take the time to learn it.
     There's this thing called the Bystander Effect. Here's a video showing a little bit of an experiment with it:

     I thought the term "diffusion of responsibility" was really interesting. That's what I think happens when we expect that someone else will take care of it. Well, I say, why not us? I know there are a lot of factors in every situation. In this case, they didn't have the person pretend to be attacked or pretend to cut themselves badly. I think most of us would have assumed they were sleeping or passed out drunk. In any situation, I think that if we have a thought to check, then we might as well. What's the worst that could happen, we disrupt a nap on the stairs in the rain?
     What if it is more serious? What if someone is bleeding out, is having a severe allergic reaction, or is having a seizure? There are a lot of people who do step up, even if they don't exactly know what to do. I don't want you to think that this is a hopeless world, that nobody helps anyone else, or that people don't do good things. I have faith in humanity. However, my faith in humanity doesn't exclude me from humanity. I won't witness a car accident and think, "It's a good thing there are so many people in the world that would stop right now and help," and then drive on. Our responsibility is to maintain faith in humanity, or at least faith in ourselves.
     This reminds me of a story I once heard. There was a man who woke up one Sunday and was getting ready to go to church. Unfortunately, it had snowed during the night and he had to shovel his driveway before he could go anywhere. As he finished, he noticed his neighbor's driveway had not yet been shoveled, and since he knew his neighbor would want to go to church, he decided to shovel his driveway as well. When he had finished and was driving to church, he noticed the car of an old lady had slid off the road and she was unable to drive it out. He stopped and as he was pushing her car out, his neighbor, whose driveway he had just shoveled, drove by quickly, sending a wave of snow and slush over the man. After helping the old lady, he decided he would return home quickly to change his soaked clothes so he would not get the church pews wet. He finally arrived at church at the end of services and sat next to his neighbor, who leaned over and said, "Too bad you were late, you missed an excellent sermon about service." 
     We all have times when we can do something to help another. When it is an emergency, it is all the more important that we actually do. We may not know everything, but everyone knows something. Stay tuned and we'll keep learning. Hopefully someday, when we are faced with a time when we can sit and stare or jump in and do something, we will have some idea of what to do and we'll do it.

P.S. In case of a medical emergency, we've talked about the app for that, so just remember to use it.

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