Kindness vs Blindness of Strangers

08/04/2012

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.

The Kindness of Strangers versus the Blindness of Strangers

helping handsThis title is something I heard on a ‘social experiment’ program. I’ve seen a few episodes over the last month. Actors set the scene and hidden cameras observe how people react to uncomfortable (or downright awful) situations set up in businesses and public situations to see what would you do.
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Would you speak up? Would you help? Multiple studies have shown that when we stretch out of our comfort zone and do ‘the right thing’ it makes us feel much better about ourselves afterwards than if we had ignored the situation. Even if you feel skeptical that calling 911 will help or make any difference at all, do it anyways. Do something.
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Sadly, each situation begins with evidence of how many people look away from, walk past, and otherwise ignore unpleasant situations. According to these experiments, the majority of bystanders don’t want to get involved, or worse, will sometimes even side with the (acting) perpetrator of the crime or insult.
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As an optimist, the thing that moves me to keep watching this rather controversial TV program is every single individual who DOES stop to help, to do something! I cheer on every person who bravely speaks up against injustice.
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One episode showed 4 youths assaulting an immigrant, and a solitary woman stopped them. Granted they were actors, but she hopped out of her vehicle and with her firm voice and strong words, even though they kept acting fierce, she told those young men to ‘stop it!’. I actually clapped my hands as I watched. What a voice in the darkness that brave woman was, and is. And we can all follow her example.
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Perhaps people with strong morals and integrity are in the minority, yet I take hope that we can all do our part to help turn that around. A fascinating human tendency is that once ONE person speaks up, other witnesses who were ‘thinking about doing something’ will often feel motivated to take action.
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Let each of us be that first brave person to do the right thing, knowing our actions encourage others to help as well. We must never assume that ‘everything is okay’ or that someone else will deal with it. Most people may consider the problem for a second but then push the thought away with “I’ve got to get to work” or possibly dismiss it with thoughts like, “I’m worrying for no reason. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
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Kindness is a giftBut is it, really? If it’s a hot day and you walk past a parked car with an infant alone inside, would you ignore it? Or a dog locked in a hot car? Every single day around the globe, babies and pets perish in parked vehicles, with the parent just ‘quickly’ running into the store, unaware of the deadly conditions that happen quickly in a hot vehicle. Do we really want to take a chance and let that happen?
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What about a person passed out on the sidewalk? Would we assume they are homeless and drunk, or perhaps pause to consider that whether they are or aren’t, they could be suffering from a health problem that requires immediate attention?
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Or what if we overheard a nasty Mother-of-the-Bride cruelly insulting her overweight daughter to tears, saying she looked hideous and ugly as she tried on gowns? Or perhaps we saw someone being beyond rude, and outright verbally-abusing a waiter or a cashier? Or what if we witnessed a very discreet breast-feeding mother being asked (not so discreetly!) to immediately leave a diner? What if we were witness to someone shoplifting with their child? Or perhaps scariest of all, what if we saw a group assaulting someone?
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Aesop quoteThis program is raw and edgy, and it asks us to really see those everyday situations where most look away. Go ahead, get offended. Get upset! Know that these hurtful scenarios are upsetting because they show us our weaknesses, moments of our failure to LOVE as we are able. At the halfway point of each story, this What Would You Do program shows those who bravely stand up against oppression and hurt, those who feel enough love inside them that they have the courage to speak out. They care for something bigger than themselves. Let’s bravely follow that great example.

30 responses to Kindness vs Blindness of Strangers

  1. 

    Awesome post. When those moments come, I pray I have the courage and wisdom to step up.

    • 

      So well put Marney. I too pray for the courage, although I find that when we step up continuously for the little, easy moments, like helping seniors in stores, and children with skinned knees, we have the practice to step up when it’s even more urgent. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  2. 

    I really love this show. Mostly because I’m a pessimist about humanity and it gives me hope that maybe all is not lost. Also it gives me courage. I’m pretty shy and introverted and when I’m out in public I try to keep my head low and look as invisible as possible. It’s so selfish of me, but helping people means that attention will be drawn to me and that makes me not do it. I’m also afraid that I might try to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Lately, I’ve gotten better and try to help people whenever I can. I too pray that I will have courage. Slowly, but surely I seem to be getting some. This post only encourages more, so thanks.

    • 

      What a wonderful comment ~ Thank you! For your honesty, and for your courage. I do understand the wanting to be invisible thing. And I do have more posts coming about this topic because there is so much to discuss, such as how your behavior of head-down, walking fast, is actually rather natural for us. It is a safety tactic, and living in crowded impersonal cities isn’t natural for us, so we find ways to adapt and survive. I thank you for your kind comment, and hope my upcoming posts will offer additional encouragement as well. 🙂 Namaste. Gina

  3. 

    Reblogged this on emocrippled.

  4. 

    I love this post. It shocks me how often people walk past situations that clearly require a little help. Awesome entry Gina. I love that you shared this. 🙂

    • 

      Thank you dearly! You are so right when you say ‘require a little help’ with the key word being ‘little’. Such a small amount of time and effort can bring huge comfort to someone in need. Your kind comment means the world to me. Hugs! 😀

  5. 

    Thanks for sharing this. What a better world this would be if we all spoke up. Even the small stuff …every act of kindness plays forward. I recall the story of someone at a toll booth paying for the person behind them just as a way to do an anonymous kindness, and the impact that action had on others that day. A small seed….

  6. 

    I’ve seen situations change simply through that one voice speaking up. As you say when that one voice speaks up it has the power to energize and gather other voices in to courageous expression. Sometimes it’s almost as if a particular situation is just waiting for that one voice. Great post, thank you.

    • 

      What a wonderful comment Don! Thank you so very much. And for bringing up the power of one voice, speaking up. We can all choose to be that one, first voice, energizing others as well. I appreciate all your thoughtful comments. Thanks again.

  7. 

    Another masterpiece, Gina! I loved it so much I’m reblogging it!
    Russ

  8. 

    Reblogged this on A Grateful Man and commented:
    My dear friend Gina has created another masterpiece and I loved it so mucdh that I wanted to share it with you, dear readers!
    Russ

  9. 

    Those shows are so powerful. I always get so emotional seeing people stand up and do the right thing. It’s even more amazing when I see it in real life. Last year a group of friends and I were almost knocked over by a beaten, disoriented man who was running across the street and landed on his face (ouch). So many strangers stopped to help roll him over, clean him up and hold his hand while the ambulance came. Faith in humanity, restored. : )

    • 

      Thank you for your amazing comment! It is all about faith in humanity being restored that I hope to offer here. Your story expresses it perfectly. Let’s hold onto that faith in humanity and know that these stories of ones who walk past will become more and more rare as we all realize how much we need to work together and embrace each other as one family. Thank you again for your visit and comment! 🙂

  10. 

    Wonderful post, Gina. I was talking recently with a client who shared her story. She was in the grocery store and witnessed a mom “losing it with her toddler.” My client gently approached her and asked if she could help her in any way. The mom burst into tears and said that she had just lost a family member and was not doing a very good job of staying patient with her child – and yes could she please hold the baby while she finished her grocery shopping. In that case, my client assumed that this woman was having a very hard time – not that she was a bad mom and by offering help, she was able to calm and diffuse the situation. I think in this case she was not blind and kind! Thank you for your wonderful wisdom, Dear Gina. Much love, Cathy

    • 

      Wow.. thank you Cathy for this incredible example. Yes your friend chose kindness over blindness, and I can imagine how much that gesture and few moments of her time meant to that family. Actions like that create ripples that go out and out, like the expression of ‘Paying It Forward’ they continue spreading love outward. Yours here is an excellent reminder of a common situation where we can help so much more than we know. Even with just a sympathetic smile and kind words of support. Thanks again dear one! Warm Hugs, Gina

  11. 

    Posts that really make a difference. Thankyou.

  12. 

    We always hope that we would do the right thing and I guess until we’re faced with the decision we won’t know. There was one time when a young girl was waiting for the school bus with a man standing beside her but it just didn’t seem right so my husband and I went around the block and drove by again and the bus did come and she got on…I felt kind of foolish not believing that it was her father or family standing with her…but with so much child abduction…I felt the need to double check…..Diane

    • 

      Good for you! That feeling of something just ‘not feeling right’ is always worth listening to. And yes, we might feel foolish later to be proven wrong – but how much better than the alternative of ignoring that hunch and learning later it was right? Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. We can all look out for each other, and if that was my child I would give you deepest thanks for driving around the block. Bless your heart! Hugs, Gina

  13. 

    This is a great message and so well delivered Gina. I so agree with you. My way is not always the right one, but I act first and ask forgiveness later. If I mistakenly intervene, so be it. All i costs me is an apology. But I’d rather apologize than eulogize.
    xo
    R

    • 

      Hello Rhonda, wow thank you for this incredible comment. Love how you act first, ask later – and would rather apologize than eulogize. That’s so eloquently put! Thank you so much, dear heart. It’s always wonderful to hear your thoughts on things.
      Hugs, Gina

      • 

        You and your heart, on the page and no doubt, in person, help bring out the best in people Gina. You have a shine to you that makes one believe we can all make a difference, and it’s not a job or a task…it’s a way of living.
        xo
        R