NOTE: This was originally published on my other blog on 20-05-15. I am transferring everything I can, unedited, with intent to shut down my other blog.
This morning, I really didn’t want to get out of bed. I just kept falling back asleep again.
Eventually I got up and dragged my ass downstairs, my brain trailing behind me like a child’s pull toy. Why did I bother? I had to do the school run. I drove my husband to school and turned down a side road to loop round and avoid a 3 point turn. I got to the end of that road, and there was a boy of about 11 or 12 sitting on the grass holding his leg, his bike mangled next to him, and two adult women, one was sitting with him, the other was standing slightly away and had two primary school aged kids with her. I didn’t even think about it, I just pulled over. I got out and ran across the grass verge in my new sandals.
“Is everything okay? Do you need any help with anything?” I asked.
“No thank you we have assistance on the way.” The woman with the primary school kids said.
“Ok, awesome.” I got back in my car and drove off. I didn’t really care what had happened, I just cared whether the obviously injured child was being cared for and whether the adults needed anything to enable them to do that. I’m not very nosy.
I didn’t feel stupid in the slightest for stopping and asking, and here’s why: Often, people assume they shouldn’t get involved in a situation, because they’re afraid they’ve misread it and that they will look stupid if they offer help where it isn’t needed. I’ve certainly got myself in trouble in the past from trying to help people.
There was the time at the Edinburgh Street Party where a man was passed out in the middle of the road and I sat with him for two hours waiting to flag down someone in a uniform because he clearly needed medical attention, only to turn around to point him out to a police officer, to find that he’d gone. Then there was the time that I saw a man hit a pregnant woman twice in the street, in the midst of a loud, angst-ridden domestic dispute, and I went over and interrupted and asked her if she wanted me to call the police, at which point they both started on me (but hey, it got them to shut the hell up and stop fighting each other). But if I don’t try, then that one person I drive past, the one person I don’t stop and talk to, that person will be the one that could have used my help. And I’ll never know if they were okay or not. This concept of personhood applies to injured animals, too (for me, but I know a lot of people don’t even care enough about humans to stop for them so y’know). There was the cat that I spent 2 hours phoning round animal charities until I found which one would take him (and I hate cats). There was the baby wild rabbit that was lost and terrified in a car park and got himself stuck under a car and only ONE person out of the 20 people on my teacher training course would come back outside when I asked and help me try and get him out. How many people had seen that rabbit in the comings and goings? He was about 10 feet away from the main entrance to the college! There was the girl who fell down having a seizure in a tram door, and everyone just stood there (and this one woman started shrieking) while I was trying to force the door to stay open and check she was breathing at the same time. She came round, sat up, got back on the tram and went on her way, I went on mine. I’m not trying to big myself up or say that I’m amazing, because I really don’t think that this is such a special or extraordinary thing. That’s my exact point. Everyone should do this. It should be second nature to people.
It really shocks and astounds me that the vast majority of people will just walk past or keep driving when they’ve seen a blatantly ill or injured or distressed person. And the assumption that if there’s one able person with them, then everything’s ok and they don’t need to do anything. What if that person doesn’t have a phone or can’t get help for some other reason?
At school in assembly, I sometimes wonder if I was the only person listening to all those Bible stories, but one that we got repeated at us at least twice a half term was the story of the good Samaritan. The person who was least able and least expected to help an injured man was the one who offered help. I got sick to death of hearing the long version of that story, but the lesson in it is one that is profoundly important whether you’re religious or not – you should always offer help if there’s a situation.
When I’ve needed help, generally people (aside from my Dearest) have just left me there. Unless I was in a shop. People doing their weekly shopping seem far more pre-disposed to helping other people. Which is odd given how down-n-dirty it can get in the car park on the way in and out. It’s not an uncommon experience for physically or mentally ill people; to need help and be ignored. I don’t think volunteering or being in the middle of your day or having an important job should be an excuse to avoid helping people. I’m not talking about the kind of help that “is so rewarding” I’m talking about the kind where there’s generally no thanks, but it could save someone’s life. Why are people so afraid of crossing the road? Has fear of crime really taken away people’s humanity to this extent?
Actually, it’s a phenomenon that’s been going on for much longer than that. Which says that fear of crime is just the latest in a long line of excuses that people have for not helping other people. It was clearly enough of an issue in Biblical times that there was a parable about it, and in the ’60s there was (POTENTIAL GRISLY TRIGGER WARNING IN LINK) Kitty Genovese. Spoiler alert: She had no good Samaritan to save her. It’s a psychological phenomenon and nobody knows why the vast majority of people do this. I hope I never become one of them to find out. Helping a victim shouldn’t be unusual or laudable, it should just be standard. In the age of Superheroes, you don’t need powers from Krypton to say “are you okay; do you need any help?”
I’ll leave you with the following image: