Sunday, May 23, 2010

Question of the Day #564

ABC News decided to put people in ethical situations on a show called What Would You Do? I recently saw a segment during which an out of control soccer coach harassed a kid in a public park, screaming that he was stupid and forcing him to do exercises again and again. The point was to examine whether or not passersby would intervene.

In another segment, a older woman couldn't pay for a prescription at the pharmacy. Quite a few people offered to help. But when a young woman played the same scene only one person offered to help.

When I was in high school, as my friend C and I we walked to our car at the mall, we came across an enraged man screaming at a woman. Two kids huddled behind her. C and I marched up to the man and yelled, "Stop!" at him.

He laughed at us.

We yelled again saying that he couldn't treat her that way and that his behavior was wrong and we told her to come with us. She and the kids followed us to our car. We got in and locked the doors as he screamed, "Fine! You have nowhere to go." Then he walked away.

Everybody cried for a few minutes. Then I asked, "Where should we take you?"

She said, "He's right. I have nowhere to go."

C and I didn't know what to do. We were 17 year old kids and it was 1989. It's not like we could have googled an abuse hotline, called from the car and driven to the nearest shelter. We didn't have any resources.

I still pray for that woman and her kids.

I also admire what gutsy kids C and I were. I don't know how I would react to that situation now, as an adult. I would definitely get help, but I'm not sure I'd march right up to an enraged abuser.

Anyway, the question is, have you ever intervened to help a stranger?



  1. I saw that show the other night too. I can't keep my mouth shut, so most of the time I do intervene. I have to be honest, I don't know that I'd pay for someone's prescriptions but I definitely would have said something to the coach abusing his student/player. If it involves kids or animals I'd intervene for sure... but sometimes with adults I stay out of it. Just this past Thursday I yelled at someone at the airport for cutting a 16 year old girl - they thought she was going to be too shy or quiet to say anything but I'm not afraid to tell them to shove it. Must be the JerZ in me.

  2. Pretty awesome thing you did for that abuse victim. Sadly, her response was typical. Rick sees that a lot at work. :(

    I've stayed with lost kids a few times until their parents were found. Of course, Rick has way more stories than me, being in law enforcement over 20 years.

  3. You should write for that show! I seem to remember you and Joanna on a choir trip to Baltimore pretending to have this huge fight in public, and my mom trying to break it up and then you both laughed at her and told her it was all for show :)

  4. I have never intervened directly. Always been kind of cautious and learning facts before I lept in.
    In O magazine this month ( I happened to have a down time this morning, Thank G, That's another story) Donna Brazile was writing about the smartest advise she ever got. It included an anecdote from Gloria Steinem. Aparently she was on a college field trip, found a snapping turtle way up a long steep hill and "rescued" it. Brought it down to the water from which it came. She was very proud of herself and when she repeated the story to her professor with great pride, he said that the turtle probably spent a month climbing up this hill to lay her eggs in a safe place. Now I guess they were doomed. Gloria tells the story to illustrate the point, What did the turtle want?
    Now abuse is abuse and has no place in our society, but I think in our present day world one needs to know and observe or call the proper authorities before "jumping".
    I guess every situation requires a thoughtful response. But then again sometimes there is not time for a thoughtful response. Complex issue.
    I do watch that show and am amazed by some of the scenes.

  5. A few times. In the short term it gave me some headaches and almost thrown in jail but sitting here now I have a clear conscious and wouldn't have done it any other way. Definitely get involved, it's rewarding.

  6. I was sitting behind a pickup truck at a toll booth (with a long line of cars piling up behind me) when I realized the guy in front of me was digging for change. I got out of my car, ran up to the guy and handed him $.50. He was so grateful and shocked (I was about 14 months pregnant at the time). I just told him to pass it on someday. I always help strangers when I can and I always tell them to pass it on.

  7. There was recently a story on CBC radio that described a phenomena where the more people there are that witness an event, the less likely they are to act/intervene. If it is one or two people, they are more likely to help. Regardless, I think everyone has the right to do risk-assessment before acting.

    I'm generally an action person, I believe it is in my nature. I once heard someone calling for help in a dark garage, and decided to investigate, where my husband was inclined to keep walking (he assumed it was a drunk). An older man had fallen and cracked his head; I was able to get him the help he needed.

    One time on a bus, a women went into an epileptic seizure and fell to the floor. While no one else did anything, and although I was unsure what to do, I immediately went to her side to at least try to cushion her head from bashing against things.

    Another time I helped apprehend a thief who had stolen my sister-in-law's purse.

    I usually always offer assistance too, if I see someone is short some cash at a register.

  8. OH, wow. You were brave and kind 17 year olds.
    When there are loose dogs in the neighborhood, I corral them in my fenced in yard and call the names on the collars. One time the dog didn't have a name and number so I staked it in my front yard on a leash so whoever was driving around would see it. (we live fairly near a highway so it scares me that the dogs will make it there when dogs are running loose!)

  9. Good advice Beck - remind people to "pass it on."

    I am going to do something good today, I can just feel it! Thanks for the motivation and reminder, dear blogger friends! :-)

  10. That was incredibly brave of you. I don't know that I would have at the guts to do that.

  11. For people, I do things on a whim - like offering to feed someone who's begging on the side of the road. And yeah, in stores I tend to want to help seniors more than young adults.

    Animals always get my attention and usually immediate action.

  12. I have. I've picked up a few people walking when it's obvious they needed wheels--the last one had gotten in a HUGE fight with her husband and was walking on a HOT summer afternoon along the highway. No way she'd have made it home in time for dinner, I felt just awful for her. It only took 3 minutes out of my way to buy her hours of her time back.


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