“We may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all-the apathy of human beings” – Hellen Keller
Scenario for you on this lovely Saturday evening:
You are walking down the street when suddenly you see a child, toddler age, running toward you on a sidewalk. About 20 feet behind, is mom with her hands full of groceries and another baby in her arms. You can see, obviously, this little run away probably escaped her grasp, isn’t listening to directions and took off. The mom is clearly having a hard time catching up, but the child is about to approach a cross-walk and the look of terror on the mom’s face shows she doesn’t think she can make it to the child before he bolts out into the street. There are other people along the sidewalk and each of them do absolutely nothing to help her.
A- Throw her a nasty look and back up to let the kid run past, making sure she knows you think she’s a crappy parent, because, obviously she’s a horrible person to have this situation happen in the first place?
B- Apprehensively make a step or two forward so she knows you sorta care but don’t really put any effort into it because, well, it’s really not your place to grab someone else’s kid and you worry about the mom freaking out because a stranger just grabbed her child?
C- Jump to action and block the child from moving, maybe even holding his arm or grasping a shoulder to make sure he stops until mom can catch up?
D- Send her sympathetic looks of “I’ve been there”, stand and watch the scene unfold like you’re watching a YouTube video, totally disconnected from a thought that you could have helped her out?
I think most people THINK they would do C when it happens, but experience shows that maybe 2% of the time someone will actually reach out to help. Options A and D are far more likely to be the case.
After a recent conversation with one of our mamas where she related to me a story much like this, I’ve been contemplating the concept of charity, helping others in need and how our nature as humans is far more likely to act with malice and contempt than with love and compassion. Sure, there are good, kind people in this world who do things because it is the right thing to do, but far more often, people simply don’t. This is especially clear when looking at moms in public. People are far more likely to judge a mother harshly when something bad happens than offer compassion and assistance.
Why is that? Why do we care so little for our fellow humans that we are willing to put up our hands and watch them struggle, even when a child’s life may be in jeopardy, just to prove that we are better than them? That is certainly the vibe they give off when it occurs, but what is it within our makeup as humans that causes us to believe this is an acceptable way to be? Where do we get this awful sense of superiority that we cannot even help a mother who is struggling on the street because it’s not our problem?
Do we REALLY think doing NOTHING makes us look like the better person? Do we actually believe it’s okay to deny someone help because we believe they caused their own problems?
Here’s my opinion; Apathy is evil. Period. It has allowed humanity to see the world and it’s people as nothing more than scenery, something to be judged, used as a comparative resource. It’s what makes us get angry at “traffic”, “accidents” and “cars” when in reality, it’s human beings trying just as hard as you to get home to their families or to work to earn a living. An “accident” is someone’s emergency and it is apathy which changes our perspective to become irritated at the delay instead of offering a prayer for the safety of those involved.
Compassion in the mom circle is something very rare… if we look at it from a psychological standpoint, we can speculate this may be because we are constantly dealing with our own fears and faults, to see someone else making a bigger mistake than we have done, actually makes us feel better. But why would our impulse be to simply ignore a struggling human in any scenario? Why do people get so judgmental before they are willing to help in any circumstance? I branch this topic out to include all acts of charity because once I had babies, for whatever reason, I started to see people differently. Their cruelty masked as justified superiority seemed to bite just a little more somehow and I started to see people’s justifications for non-action
Personally, I believe that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done to get in the place you’re at, if you need help- you NEED HELP. All other issues, moral dilemmas and personal feelings are completely invalid at that point. The goal in this case is protect the child, help the mother. Not, judge the mother and let the child remain at risk.
I have, quite suddenly, come to a very abrupt end to my ability to cope with, accept or pretend I understand those who do not believe in inclusion, global community or honoring one another as equals. I realized recently this issue goes far beyond the mom with a running child scenario. It extends to ALL people and many situations where just being a decent human and helping someone out is a much more complicated decision than it aught to be.
And you know what? It shouldn’t be. It really, really shouldn’t. Helping someone who needs help should be a part of our instinctual response- our first thought, not the thought after we decide if they’re worthy of help.
As a parent, we try to teach our children to be nice to other children- to honor them and to respect them. We teach them to be helpful, compassionate and giving. Yet, we show them that when we grow up, we no longer have to follow those rules. It’s suddenly okay to hoard our belongings, to hold still when people are crying out for a helping hand and to do nothing if we simply don’t feel like helping.
As children, we are taught not to judge or bully, we are taught to share and be kind to others even if they are different or live different lives than us. Yet, as adults, its somehow acceptable to judge everyone else’s actions before we are willing to do anything kind or even to bother reaching out.
Then, if help is offered, many will tack on this attitude of “charity” making sure the person knows “I did this for you because you couldn’t” and with an expectation of exaltation. They really aren’t helping because they want to- they are helping because they want to be THE ONE WHO HELPED and to be praised for it and you KNOW that, because if the person who was helped doesn’t go overboard with thanks and appreciation and reciprocation, the person who helped them out will get all bitter and angry and frustrated that their help was not appreciated.
Only if we find that we personally believe the individual deserves help, will we step up and do what we can. It’s gotten to the point where if someone is in need, most people will stand there and continue to allow that need to occur unless someone (who won’t be them) is willing to stand up and do something without morally judging the person in need before they give them help.
When did we become so selfish? How did we become such a hoarding, self-righteous culture that we are incapable of giving or even something as basic as stepping out to prevent a child from hurting themselves?
Why can’t we just offer our assistance because it’s the right thing to do? The human thing to do?
Why does someone have to be like-minded in order to be worthy of help, or have to have come to their position completely by accident in order to have anyone willing to come to their aid? If you are a victim, people will help- if you did something stupid, people will stand and laugh, judge and condemn.
If that mom was on her cell phone or somehow wasn’t paying attention to her kid, would you allow the child to run into the street to teach her a lesson? Many spectators would. Some would even call after her to take better care of her child next time or threaten to call CPS.
What if she had suffered some sort of injury that compromises her circulatory system, prevents her from moving too quickly and causes her to live in pain a great deal of the time? What if her child is simply stronger than her grip and even though she tried, she just couldn’t hold on? Would you be more sympathetic and jump in to help because she had a good reason for needing assistance? Or would you just scoff at her poor parenting because a well disciplined child would know better than to run off?
The thing is, the random person on the street watching this scene unfold doesn’t know which is the accurate scenario but somehow, they seem to always, ALWAYS jump to the more negative conclusion, turn away and shake their heads in judgement without lifting a finger to help.
I worry about us when I see these sorts of things happen. “Us” as in people. Humans. Our world at large. If this apocalyptic event that everyone says is inevitable comes to pass one day, I should hope that those who could help my loved ones through disaster will not judge them first before offering a hand. I hope someone will be willing to help them, even if they don’t agree with them. Even if they look different or are obviously of a different culture or clearly made different life choices. I hope that if the people I love end up needing help, they won’t be judged first and abandoned simply because of their differences.
In a crisis situation if someone comes screaming, “help help there’s a fire I need help!” Does the responder first ask, “what is your religion? What is your sexual orientation? Do you live on the north side or the south side of town? Do you have a job or you on unemployment or welfare? Do you need help because this was a genuine, freak accident that could not of been prevented? Or did you cause this accident because of a bad decision or laziness? I don’t want to help you if you caused it yourself, you will have to cope with it on your own and find a way to solve your own problems. Answer these questions and then I’ll decide if you deserve my time.”? No. The responder acts because a human is in need. Period.
This is the attitude that I see everywhere these days, and it just makes me sad. Someone sees another get into trouble and the first thing out of their mouth is, “well what stupid thing that they do to create that mess?” Or, “Oh, well they were probably doing drugs”. A car accident occurs and the first thing someone says, is “they were probably texting”. And while any of those things could be true, the fact that our minds go THERE first, is my problem.
When we can no longer see humanity as ourselves and we hold ourselves so much higher than everyone else, when we see only the mistakes to judge rather than a fellow being who may need guidance, education or compassion there is something gravely wrong with our society.
Now, don’t get me wrong- compassion and helpfulness to our fellow man does not mean I think everyone deserves a hand out- I do believe that you should work hard for what you have. I also believe that you should *want* to work hard for what you have. I do believe that you shouldn’t ask for someone to do a job for you so that you can do yourself, and I believe one who receives help should offer appropriate appreciation. I believe a person who is offered assistance should first evaluate whether or not they REALLY need it, or it would just be helpful. I believe they should seek every available resource to manage an issue on their own before reaching out and only accept help when they have exhausted all other options. I simply believe we should quit it with the judgement. It’s not our job to be moral police or life-choice specialists, it is our job to be human and to help our fellow humans when needed, if we can.
If we are going to teach our babies to be compassionate, giving and caring of their peers, we have to lead by example. This is not one of those areas where we can tell them to do one thing and then let them watch us do another and not think it will effect how they see the world.
One day, it might be you running after your child in a park as they approach the parking lot or you trying to cope with a complete toddler meltdown in a grocery store with an infant and a cart full of groceries. One day, you might be the one who needs compassion and a helping hand. I hope when it happens to you, someone is there to help you through that moment, even if you created that situation yourself through some foolish mistake. I hope someone offers you a hand, even if your poor decision is what got you there in the first place.
When the time comes and it’s your opportunity to help and you’ve got that angel and the devil on your shoulder, one saying “of course we should help” and the other saying, “ugh… that’s not my problem, we don’t have time for that”, I hope the angel wins.