Monday, February 24, 2014

Bystander Apathy

There is something that has been weighing heavily on my head since going to the gym this morning. And, it has nothing to do with running. Yes, running is important, but sometimes it gets trumped by more importanter stuff (like grammar).

You might remember last week that I sat with a woman at the gym who we thought was having a heart attack. (Turns out they thought it was a stroke, but after being hospitalized found out it was a complex migraine that caused her to be dizzy, to lose movement in her arm, and to be nauseated).

When I was asking about her today, the woman at the front desk who had called 911 that day told me that I was the only person who had stopped to help. She said countless people saw what was going on, and scurried out the door.

I am  not writing this to say I am some kind of hero. I did what I think and hope any of you would have done (and it really wasn’t much. I just comforted her until the paramedics came and then went to her house to get her husband). I am writing this to ask – WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

Have we become so self-involved, so afraid of connection, so scared of liability or so hurried that we can’t stop to help a human being who is clearly in need?  I can understand if one’s personal safety is at risk, but often times that is not the case.

At the end of the day, we are all just people. We are all connected by our humanness. Whether we are sub-2 hour marathoners, doctors, mothers, Oprah or the president of the Untied States, we all feel fear, pain, loneliness, joy – we feel these things on the most basic of human levels regardless of our circumstances. It should be our instinct to help others. It should not feel like an effort or something we do to get kudos and to be recognized. And, we should keep in mind, that someday we will need help ourselves. Let’s just hope those around us can accommodate.

One of my favorite quotes is “Our character is what we are when no one is watching.” (H. Jackson Brown). That kind of keeps me in check (especially when my dog poops and I don’t have a bag and am thinking of just leaving it).

Prior to this incident with the lady at the gym, I had read an article related to this epidemic of “Bystander Apathy (BA).” I am fascinated by the psychology behind BA, which has become quite an epidemic (watch this video to see it in action). Much research has been done on this and it’s been concluded that people are less likely to intervene for two reasons (assuming personal safety is not a concern).

1. We are less likely to help if there are many people witnessing what is going on (we figure someone else will step in) – yet, the more that people don’t’ step in, the more people seem to think the situation is non-emergent and don’t help anyway.

2. We are less likely to help those we see as different from us (race, socio economics, etc).

My deeper interpretation of why we stand by is that we are all scared to death. Scared of the unknown. Scared that becoming involved will demand too much of us. Scared that we won’t be able to handle it and will curl up into a ball of blubbering tears.

But, mostly I think we are terrified of failure. After all, if we choose to help someone and are unsuccessful (they die) or we don’t know what to do (we might look foolish!), then we have failed and we have to cope with the reality of that. Once again fear holds us back from becoming better.

Don’t let fear paralyze you. Life is so much better when we let it in and act anyway.

Lastly, here is a story of someone who acted (although too late) when he found a woman who turned out to be dead in the Starbuck’s parking lot. Just one of hundreds of stories that might have had a different ended, but for Bystander Apathy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have you ever reached out to help a stranger in need? Why or why not? No, except for dogs.

SUAR

78 comments:

  1. There was a woman at the side of the road at the 2012 Boston Marathon, crouched down holding her head and looking loopy (probably heat stroke or something similar). I stopped and stayed with her until some fantastic Army volunteers came over and took over. I didn't really do anything but didn't want her by herself. It was no big sacrifice, I wasn't "racing" that day anyway so it was the right thing to do.

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    1. Good for you. I have never had that experience in a race (seeing someone down), but am hoping I would do the same thing.

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  2. I hate this issue! I learned about it in a psych class in college as the 'diffusion of responsibility' and have witnessed it so many times. People just automatically assume someone else will take care of it that they just go about their own business. It really is a horrible issue.

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  3. Whenever I see someone fall while skiing i always stop and ask if they are OK (and grab their skis/poles/gloves if i am able). And luckily when I fell and hurt my knee, people did the same for me and skied behind me til i got to the bottom to make sure i was ok. It makes me sad that not everyone does this...
    ReneeW.

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    1. Skiers and runners definitely seem prone to help each other out, and hopefully others as well!

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  4. People suck! Maybe because I am a nurse, but if I saw that happening I sure as hell would be helping the poor lady. Thank goodness it wasn't a stroke or a heart attack.

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  5. I know you are right,but there is also fear of 'persecution of the Good Samaritan' and getting sued when you were trying to help. I hope I would be as good as you. Good post!

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    1. And I think that is a huge part of the problem. Instead of doing the right thing, people fear being sued. UGH. How did we get so litigious?

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    2. Unfortunately, people don't realize how much protection there is under the Good Samaritan laws. Unless someone does something far outside of their capabilities, they won't lose if they do get sued.

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  6. I helped a little boy find his mom at the mall around Christmas-time. Well, really I just patted his hand until his mom found us. But I'm glad he wasn't alone.
    Funny side story: I saw a man lying (laying??) in the snowy parking lot at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. He was surrounded by quite a few people so I figured he was in good hands but after I parked, I looked over just to make sure. Turns out he was being arrested by three plain-clothes police officers ~ He was face down in the parking lot getting cuffs slapped on him!

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  7. A man was hit by a car in downtown Spokane two weeks ago, and 4 or 5 more cars hit him again without stopping (as he struggled to get up) or drove around him - WTH? I am amazed! I KNOW I would stop and help someone, because that is what my mother raised me to do, you know, THE RIGHT THING. I agree with you, what the h is wrong with people? Bless you Beth, for doing the right thing as well. I am sure the woman is grateful.
    Janine Fraser

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    1. YIKES. How could someone just drive around? You know it was very sweet...the woman left a card for me. Made me cry.

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  8. On my commute from the subway to the bus station in NYC, I saw a man convulsing on the sidewalk. Everyone else was taking a VERY wide berth around him. I thought he was having a seizure or a stroke, and walked right up to him. Turns out he was homeless and jacking off on the sidewalk. oh, lesson learned. I will always stop and try to help, but will think twice about doing so in Times Square.

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    1. OMG. I don't know whether to laugh my ass off or be totally disgusted. Eww. Yeah, guess that would be one instance where you don't want to help. Sounds like he had it taken care of.

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    2. "Sounds like he had it taken care of"....laughed so hard I almost peed my pants...this is why I love you. Wow...that sounded slightly obsessed..... .like you?

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  9. It is sad that so few people take action. Good for you for being there to comfort her. That did more good than anything else. I'm sure she is very appreciative:)

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  10. Hi! The other day, a lady passed out in spin class... noone, that is NOONE got off their bikes. I immediately stepped down and helped the instructor... I had the same thought... what the heck is wrong? Everyone kept at it as if worried not to be able to burn enough calories... Trying to see a bright side, I thought... maybe, since I was there, they felt they didn't need anyone else but hey... they looked as if they couldn't care less... eek!
    Well done helping Beth!

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  11. I once had a seizure at a baseball game, in the front of the concession line. As I was coming to, all I could hear was the lady behind me trying to order her nachos, and the guy at the register telling her they had to get a manager to cancel out the order that I had just placed for a bottle of water before he could help her. She was literally reaching over me to try and get her order placed. Luckily, there were some EMTs there to help me, but I really hope that lady didn't die of nacho starvation...

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    1. Nacho starvation! That really is an emergency.

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    2. Her cheese content was dangerously low!

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  12. Yep, I turned around on the freeway (after much protesting against it from my hubby) because I saw taillights in the ditch during a pouring rainstorm. I parked a short distance away and ran over to help them. Someone else had already stopped but it was a husband, wife and small baby that had gone off the road. I couldn't help them but was glad I stopped. I always think "what if it was my family member...."

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  13. Not quite the same, but the other day I was out for a run, and I came across a very scared, but somewhat agressive (only because she was scared and covered in snow) black lab in the middle of the road. Car after car just drove past her, but I first tried to lure her off the road, and then had to sprint home to get my husband, our car, a leash and some treats. When we returned, she was still freaked out in the middle of the road. Eventually we coaxed her into our car and she was the sweetest thing. Turns out she escaped from a neighbor's fenced in yard (though I am not a fan of outdoor dogs in a freezing climate like Minneapolis)..

    ANYWAYS- I guess everyone who just passed the dog by must have assumed she was someone else's issue, but it makes me sad to think that could have been MY dog.....

    When in doubt, always stop...for a dog. And hopefully a human too :)

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  14. A few years ago, my husband and I were out driving on some back country roads. In the winter. We drove past a house where it appeared someone had slipped and fallen on some ice. Their dog was huddled around them, licking them, as they lay on the ground.

    We zoomed past at about 70mph, and made it no more than a minute down the road when the scene sunk into my head. I couldn't stomach the thought that if the person had really fallen on the ice, that they might freeze to death as their dog watched on. I forced my husband to turn around and drive back.

    As we slowly drove back up to access the situation, it turned out it was a young child, playing "dead" with their dog. When she realized we were slowing down to check on her, she raised her head and laughed at her dog, then ran off.

    Even if I didn't help someone - At least I stopped.

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  15. This has happened to me twice this year while skiing and it drives me bonkers. Slightly different, but I was coming into the chairlift at Keystone and I see this 5-6 year old little boy wandering around, dragging his skis with a tear-stained face. He obviously lost his parents yet everyone was skiing around him while he cried. I stopped and sat with him while Will found ski patrol and got it sorted, but it killed me that no one helped this little dude. What, are we too busy in our lives to stop and help a scared child?! Argh!

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  16. We recently went to a soccer game on a blustery, freezing evening in a major city. As we were leaving the stadium in the throngs of people decked out in cold weather gear and carrying blankets, we saw a homeless guy shivering in a doorway. Person after person had already walked by him. I looked at my husband as we passed, but he was already on his way back, stripping off his jacket to cover this poor man. I couldn't believe how many people had just walked by. Someone could have just taken a blanket and covered him up.

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  17. I was recently on the other side - the one in need. We had been living on Oahu for a year, where the homeless population is extreme. On an early morning run in the Ala Wai Harbor, I trip and went down hard. Skinned up both hands and knees. As I was sitting on the ground accessing the damage, I heard a voice say, "Are you okay? Hey, are you okay?" I looked up into the face of a homeless woman, who had probably slept on a nearby bench. I got up and asked if the nearby restroom was open, showing her my hands. She said, "I have bandaids, you need some peroxide." She would have given me whatever I needed if she had it, but I was just across the street from home and said I'd be okay until I got there. It really challenged my perception. We ALL need a helping hand from time to time and I hope I'm willing to give it the next time I see someone in need.

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    1. Wow, this story gave me chills and made me tear up at the same time. What a wonderful lesson.

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  18. I love what you said about people being scared to death. Truly, honestly, I think all negative behavior stems from fear. I truly do not believe that people are uncaring and cold -- I think we're all afraid and those who don't know how to overcome fear end up being very closed.

    I'm glad you stopped to help, and I'm glad you wrote this.

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    1. You said it better than I could have. I do think so much boils down to fear. The other side of that is compassion, courage and love.

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  19. This has reminded me of something that happened to my aunt. She always used to walk her dog through a popular picnic spot, and one summers day saw a homeless man asleep on one of the benches. There were lots of people around with their children, having lunch etc etc. on the way back home she thought 'something's not right here' as he hadn't moved at all and when she went to investigate it turned out he was dead. Of course she notified the police but she was so distressed about how long he had laid there with everyone eating lunch and playing frisbee next to him. The police said he had been dead for at least 24 hours which is appalling. On a separate note I once poked a man sleeping in a carpark to see if he was still alive and got a mouthful of abuse. But I'd do it again if I had to!

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  20. This saddens me, too. I'm thankful to live in a rural area where the culture is to stop and help. In the last few years I've been first on the scene of a rollover car accident and a fall from a horse that knocked a child out. Sat with the driver until the sheriff and ambulance arrived, hauled the concussed kid and his dad to the ER. The difference here might be that there is no "crowd" if you don't help it might be a good long while before someone else comes along. That being said, I think the desire to help is innate, but either you have it or you don't.

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  21. Beth, this post reminds me of the this blog I read with a tragic end, http://legionwriter.com/2014/01/15/this-crappy-obituary-reflections-on-the-woman-i-found-dead-in-the-starbucks-parking-lot/

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    1. Wow. I just added the link to this post. What a terribly sad, sad story. And, what a gifted writer the author is.

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    2. I know, I was so moved by that post. When I read your post today it reminded me of it, another heart wrencher and what the heck is wrong with people?!? Although in that story, I felt like anyone could relate to his feelings. "Should I, when no one else is?"

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    3. Absolutely. I think what I've learned from all of this is to take a risk and do it anyway, even if no one else is.

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  22. I was an Emergency Medical Technician for many, many years - from the late 80's through the early 00's, and I can say that I learned that people that witness emergencies are affected in bizarre and perplexing ways. I learned not to get pissed at anyone's behavior. I also learned very scary things about humanity -- but the most valuable thing I learned was that it is a very special act when a person reaches out a hand to another. It's called love, and not many people know how to show it.

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  23. This is a real problem. I think people just assume that someone had a cell phone and is already helping. I still always check, even if people assume I'm a nosy pain in the rear.

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  24. It certainly wasn't a life-threatening emergency, but a few months ago I was driving with both my young children in the car when the car in front of us lost a wheel. His back wheel literally went spinning away, crossed the median and the other lane, and ended up about .28 miles away (I run this 'hood a lot.). I pulled over immediately and let the guy use my cell phone (apparently, he and three of his wheels were stuck in the past) to call for help. My 6 y.o. son was so impressed. As soon as I got back in the car, he said, "Mom, I am just so proud of you for helping that stranger. I'm going to give you my $5. That was such a nice thing to do!" I didn't take his allowance, but I did think about how crazy it was that my helping a stranger came as a shock. It ended up being a cool, teachable moment for us...not sure if the other driver ever made it to the airport, though.

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  25. Last year i was attacked/held up at gun point, with a large tour group about 20 feet in front of me. After the men ran off, i started running towards the group (who were still not that far ahead) screaming for help. A few people turned around, and then kept walking. I had no choice but to try and catch up with these people, so i kept running and screaming for them to help/stop. By the time i got to them i was filled more with rage over them not stopping then i was with fear. I started yelling at these people, asking why no one had stopped, since they said they had heard me screaming. I then asked to use someones phone. And everyone claimed not to have one. The tour guide (who was in the front of the group) heard what was going on, stopped, and used his phone to call the police, and made someone else let me use their phone to call a friend. Honestly i was just as shaken up and upset about these people not helping as i was about being attacked. At least for that night. Anyway, thank you for stopping to help someone in need. I hope your post reaches lots of people, and everyone who reads it will do the same.

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    1. That is outrageous. I just do not get it. Really don't get it. So glad you are okay. Comments like this makes me lose some faith in human kind!

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  26. I think we need more posts like this one you bring to our attention. It is really sad, what we have become. And please don't get me started on customer service...this doesn't exist either!

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  27. I remember walking across a bridge in the town I was living in and on a Sunday morning this man was lying face down on the road and people literally were driving around him and not stopping. I couldn't leave him there so I checked him for medic alert bracelets there were none - he appeared to have had too much to drink and passed out cold on the road. Eventually the ambo's came and took him away saying he was one of their regulars.

    Another time I was walking home going through the centre of town and I saw a middle aged lady lying half on the footpath half on the road and people walking around her not helping her - she was passed out and had wet herself - she too smelt strongly of alcohol - and nobody was going within 10 feet of her. I couldn't leave her on the road so I commandeered another bystander and we lifted her into a sitting position off the road whereupon she came to and professed she was okay.

    Do unto others peeps!

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  28. YESSSSS this has long fascinated me, it's something we learned about a lot in journalism school. Along with how people are horrible witnesses because they insert things they think happened. Anyhow. I think it made me more aware so I do stop {minus cars on the side of the road when I'm alone}

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  29. This struck a nerve with me! I set out on a "run" last spring while living in Boston when I was 29 weeks pregnant (that run was more of a shuffle). I wasn't too far from home when I tripped on uneven pavement and fell quite spectacularly on the sidewalk of a fairly bust street. Two young women saw it happen and walked right by while I was sprawled out on the pavement like a turtle flipped on its back. They didn't even say a word, they didn't even look at me. I still remember one girl's face because I was so shocked that she didn't even care. Long story short, the baby and I were fine (had to spend the night at L&D for monitoring though). But I was so bothered that no one even tried to help me, so from that point until the end of my pregnancy I never went on another run or walk by myself again. And if I see someone that I think needs help I offer it.

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    1. Unbelievable...that you could be pregnant and be ignored. Glad all was okay.

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  30. Five years ago I was out for a run on the campus of our State University, I fell hard on a sheet of ice and busted my chin wide open. It was extremely bloody and I couldn't stand up because everytime I did I started to black out. Several college students walked by ignoring me. No one offered to help even when I started asking people to use their phone so I could call my husband no one stopped they just stared straight ahead. After about 15 minutes a car finally pulled up and asked if I needed help, the woman called my husband and stayed with me until he arrived. I was so out of it I never asked for her name but was so grateful. Ever since then I go out of my way to ask people if they need help. Its a real eye opener when you are the one in trouble.

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  31. I teach about bystander apathy in my Social Psychology class, and I love discussing Darley and Latane's article on it (published in 1969 - this is not a new phenomenon!) where SEMINARY students ignore a person in distress when they are in a rush to be somewhere. When even seminary students are ignoring someone in need, you know it's got to be a somewhat normal thing to do (though I'm not excusing it).

    Have you seen this video? It's nice to see the people who actually DO help:
    http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/video/aiding-fallen-7053177


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  32. At the end of a 5k fun run (it was timed but let's be real, it wasn't a competition), I was waiting for my husband to cross the finish line. (I had crossed before him.)

    Across the finish line comes a woman who stops and hurls. Yes, lots of water and nothing else. I pushed my way through everyone who just stood there watching her as she stumbled through the crowd. I stayed with her until her husband found her.

    As a runner, I cannot believe how many people will pass others who have just tripped and fallen. They just keep going. Not me, I see you fall, I am going to stop and help you.

    I also see those horrible FB posts people post of ignored kittens encrusted in dirt that are passed by everyone. Not me. Animals, people, you name it. If you are injured, I'm going to stop and help. Living creatures are more important that anything else, including a qualifying time.

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  33. this absolutely breaks my heart that people can be so cold and callous to each other. a few years ago i passed out during a race and people who were running next to me stopped to see if i was ok and held me up (likely messing up with races) when spectators and other runners all converged on me to help me when i collapsed (apparently this is what happened since i have no memory of this). i'm so grateful for those who helped me and can't imagine turning my back on another person who ever needed help!!

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  34. I've been on both sides of this situation, I'm afraid. Viral illness in 1995- I collapsed on the sidewalk at college. Busy route... I laid there for a long time while students, teachers, and passersby walked around and over me... this was pre-cell phone era. No one ever stopped or asked why someone who looked like all the other college students was on the ground. Finally, I managed to crawl off the sidewalk and rest long enough to get up and stagger to the university health clinic. It was maybe half a mile away and it took me more than an hour, I'd estimate. I was hospitalized after I got there.

    Then, while I was living in NYC, a woman passed out on the train. Homeless, probably, maybe intoxicated. She fell down and hit her head. Nobody did anything. Another woman started immediately yelling about helping and stopping the subway train- everyone else but me protested. I stood next to her and backed her up. The arguing got worse, and finally she pulled the emergency stop cord. This meant that the train would be stopped for a LONG time since then the cops, subway workers, etc., have to come investigate. So the ill person got help, but there were a lot of commuters ready to smack the woman who had helped her and I got the hairy eyeball too.

    So yeah, my takeaway here is that people will leave you for dead! But we could easily do better.

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  35. My husband suffers from epilepsy, and on our anniversary, dressed to the nines, he had a grand mal seizure right in front of the casino we just ate at. ONE person stopped to help us. Many walked by, pretending not to notice, even before the one person stopped. Now, I had everything handled. I had my phone, he was safely in the grass, but still it shocked me!

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  36. Yea to you for helping and glad she was OK. I had a situation (some time ago) that was the opposite of BA and I still want to believe this could happen again. I was walking from my office to catch the bus after work in downtown Denver when I was hit by a car (he was at fault). Luck was on my side that day as I saw it with just enough time to sort of jump and roll up onto the hood then roof and land on the pavement on the passenger side, but I was far from OK. I was very dazed and shaking like crazy from the incident and my stuff had gone everywhere. Although the driver did not stop, I had so many people run to help it was almost overwhelming. I did not lose one thing, they gathered everything up and a couple actually stayed with me all the way to the shuttle, to the other end of the 16th Street Mall and even waited with me until I caught my bus. (Yes, I should have gone to the hospital, but I was somehow adamant against it, but was sore for days.) I was so very grateful then and still use that to always make sure I stop and help when/if the situation presents itself.

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    1. This is the kind of story I love to hear. Thanks for sharing and so glad you were okay!

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  37. I had a similar experience at my gym a couple of years ago. A young man was lying on the floor barely conscious and had vomited...not in a corner or concealed area, but directly across from the ellipticals and treadmills. I ran to the front desk for help and they'll called the manager on duty who took control of the situation. It scares me to think how many people walked by this man and didn't take any action and I find it impossible that at least one of the people on the treadmills/ellipticals did not see him.

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  38. I was driving along and saw a new young driver hit and take down a light pole with her car. She miss judged the turn. I drove by, stopped and turned around.. I let her use my cell phone to call her parents and waited till they arrived..

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    1. My son just started driving so I hope someone would do this for him! I bet her parents really appreciated it.

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  39. I was on the receiving end of someone stopping last year. I was running a half marathon and tripped over who knows what, face first onto the sidewalk. Split my lip wide open, bruised my knee slightly--I'm sure I was a sight. A couple of other ladies who were in the race saw what happened, stopped to see if I was okay, and tried to help me find somewhere to get the blood cleaned up. I was more embarrassed and shaken than anything, so I thanked them and told them to go on and eventually found a drinking fountain where I could clean up some. At the end of the race, they saw me and asked again how I was doing. Too many times people are afraid to get involved, but we need to look out for one another. There are laws to protect Good Samaritans, and it's only right to lend a hand to someone in need.

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  40. I was at one of those bouncy house places with my kids a few weeks ago, and I saw a kid crying and yelling that he was stuck and his friend was trying to pull him out, and the kid was yelling "Get an adult." There were a TON of moms and dads around (and, I'm assuming, this kids' parents somewhere). I was the only one who even seemed concerned. I told the kid to hold on, and I went to get help. I notified someone who worked there, but the child had gotten himself out by the time we got back. Do you know, I actually got dirty looks from some bystanders? Like maybe they thought I was being reactionary or nosey or something? Heaven forbid we try to look out for each other.

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  41. The bystander effect is also known as the "Genovese Syndrome" named after the murder of Kitty Genovese back in the 60's in NY. I learned this in one of my psych classes some time ago and haven't forgotten about it because it is, unfortunately, a daily occurence. It is a diffusion of responsibility. Kitty was basically in an alley being attacked screaming for help and no one responded. Most people shut their windows or yelled to leave her alone. Kitty died on the way to the hospital.

    As a nurse, I have an obligation to help in emergency situations regardless of the circumstances. My story happened on a SW flight from CO to CA. My friend and I were actually flying out there to do the Napa Valley Marathon. Anyways, a lady was in the back of the plane and had apparently "passed out". The flight attendant ran up the aisle to the front of the plane - at this point I thought the plane was about to go down. She got on the intercom and asked for a doc or RN for help. The lady looked gray and the thought of coding someone in the aisle of a SW plane was not on my agenda. My friend that was with me was also a nurse so we got up and ran to the back and helped the lady. She ended up being fine, thank goodness... just got lightheaded and passed out from lack of food intake. She thanked us and the SW crew provided us with free drinks for the rest of the flight and a flight voucher.Which was just an added bonus. I bet the doctor and other nurse that were on the plane wished they had stood up to help! ;)

    I think the overall answer to why people don't help is because they assume someone else will take care of it and also they are afraid they won't know what to do when really anything is better than nothing!

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  42. That cartoon at the beginning of your post actually happened to me :(
    When I was 16 I passed out in a bookstore. When I came to their were literally people stepping over me! Others all around me standing and reading books/magazines. I'll never forget it. I quickly felt small and sad inside. I got up and walked out of the bookstore confused about human beings. Needless to say, it has influenced how I react to others in need. I have an almost inner instinct to help, a "I've been there" motivation of sorts.

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  43. I think that, sadly, this has been a phenomenon for years. Remember that famous case in NYC where the woman was attacked on the street and no one did anything? I think it was from the early 70s even and has been used as an example in sociology classes for years. I have yet to really be in a situation where this has been an issue, but I sure hope I would do the right thing if I were.

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    1. Yes I realize (and several readers have pointed out) that this is not a new phenomenon. It is not as though I thought this was something new. I guess that makes it all the more disturbing..that we, collectively, with all of our "growth" and have not improved with regards to helping each other out.

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  44. My grocery bags broke and I spilled my groceries right in the middle of the road in front of the grocery store this afternoon. I couldn't believe how many people stepped over my stuff instead of help me pick it up. Finally, a young lady who worked there came and gave me a hand. I've almost always been one to help with things like that, and now after your post, and my experience, I feel even more inclined to help out. Its not that hard really, and little things like that don't take much time, but they make a big difference.

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  45. This past week I went to take the dog for a short walk before going to work. I saw something odd on the ground at the opposite end of the street. Ran up that way to investigate. I found an elderly neighbor who had fallen on the ice and he was calling for help. I got his wife and daughter and hung around until the ambulance arrived. I can't imagine not stopping to help someone who was obviously in need of medical attention.

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  46. Bahahaha! I'm so good at helping dogs. I do remember an incident from college when I saw a gal crying on a bench outside a building. She was all alone, and I felt so strongly that I should go talk to her.

    …But I chickened out. I justified that I'm so awkward and shy and would probably do more harm than good (and then I became a therapist…). I still feel awful about it, and that was years ago.

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  47. This is such an eye opener for me. I was amazed just a week ago when some strangers helped me dig out and push my car out of a tight icy spot on the street. It's sad that something so simple is now considered a big deal.

    I know that I have avoided homeless people, but I can't imagine just leaving someone lying and the ground possibly dead on the street! I know that when things happen (a woman once passed out across from me on an airplane) that I am often in too much shock to take action. I think it's the fear that paralyzes me.

    We have to do better to look out for one another!

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  48. My running partner and I were on one of our regular routes when we were approached by an elderly woman, obviously distressed, asking for our help. Her husband appeared to be having a stroke. We sat him up, put a blanket over him and called 911. We stayed with both of them until the ambulance came. It took about twenty minutes. I couldn't imagine just running by. This makes me so sad to think that this is where we are as a society. Screw litigiousness. We need to help each other. That old person could be us one day.

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  49. I was at Target one day and witnessed a woman fall. I think she hit water or something. Anyway. I went over to try and help her up. I was in my early thirties at the time and she was, I'm guessing, fifty-ish. She refused my assistance and turned her head away. Another woman, approximately her same age offered her assistance and she accepted. I was glad she was alright, but I was confused and honestly a bit offended.

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  50. My sociology prof spent a few classes on this. A woman was murdered, and all the neighbors could hear her scream, but no one helped her. It wasn't their business, they said. So let's hear it for nosy busybodies! People stay alive that way. I keep the lesson in my mind, and always stop to help. Luckily, I am usually not the only one--I can't believe you were! That is very worrisome.

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  51. I don't understand folks that don't attempt to help another in distress. I seem to be the neighborhood busy body (and thankfully I have not found anyone laying on the ground). I DON'T mean to be BUT I do spend an INSANE amount of time walking my dogs (not by choice-they like walking). Due to my nature I tend to watch my surroundings pretty closely (unless I'm reading your blog while walking them ha ha). It's a rarity that I hesitate on offering assistance or calling the local PD when I see something/one in distress. I'm no saint, there has been a time (or two) that I've heard something odd and not investigated ('it's been a long day I don't even wanna know'). HOWEVER if my front door is wide open and my neighbor knows I'm not there I'd hope that they would call the police to come check the house and shut the door. Or if your out walking your dogs, hear an odd nose wafering from my home and haven't seen me in a few days-I'd hope you'd call the police then too. I'd rather you call the police and find out I'm OK verse not calling and weeks later someone finds me deceased.

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  52. I read your Starbucks Obit story and cried my freaking eyes out at the amazing comments. What a sad but heartfelt story.

    As for helping people I think everyone has said everything they can say except one thing I think may be true...we've had it drilled into us to "let the professionals handle it and stay out of the way". So like...in the case of the spin class....I can imagine everyone getting off their bikes to help and being in the way and the instructor thinking...can everyone just stand back and give her air? Because everyone always wants to HELP. Now it's a matter of...can we just get a LITTLE help? A happy medium would be great. And I really think common sense should come in here. People in the back...stay back. Someone right next to her? Can I help? What can I do for you?

    On a side note;

    still thinking of your brother...

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  53. Ick. As a health care professional, I took an oath to help any person in need, but I would hope that I would help someone regardless. A couple of weeks ago, an elderly woman bent down to pick something up off the bottom shelf in the grocery store where my pharmacy is located. She couldn't get back up and so the store manager came and grabbed me for help. When I got there she was completely coherent but wasn't ready to stand up so I sat down with her and just put my arm around her. Luckily she didn't need any medical intervention, but sometimes a friendly gesture like a hug is all someone needs. It makes me sick to think that people can just walk by. Good for you for helping the lady at your gym.

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  54. My mom was visiting me in DC and we were walking home from dinner in a very nice, well populated part of town at 8pm on a Sat night when I kid snatched her purse from her arm and ran away with it. My instinct kicked in and (the marathoner that I am ;) ) I began to chase after him SCREAMING. My major in college was Psych and I knew all too well that the bystander effect is real.. so I yelled as I chased "Someone stop HIM! He took my mom's purse!" over and over again while pointing. Three guys not only chased him, got my moms bag back, but HELD him down while calling 911 and continued to hold him until the police got there. These three guys were simply on their way to dinner- dressed nicely- when they heard me and acted. I've never had my faith in humanity taken away and restored so quickly. I am thankful no one was hurt and that the guy spend a week (so far) in jail!

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  55. My husband had an incident the day after Thanksgiving. He is a truck driver. When he got to work (it was about 4am, still dark out), his supervisor had asked if he had seen a fellow driver. Apparently this driver's truck was still 'in the hole' (waiting to be loaded) and hadn't been moved for a while. My husband asked if anyone checked the truck and proceeded to run out to the truck. Sure enough, there was the driver, slumped over at the wheel, truck in gear, still running. It had been that way for at least 45 minutes. Nobody bothered to question it until my husband looked inside. Sadly, the driver had passed away.

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  56. A friend and I were at a bar one evening when a fight broke out. One of the guys pushed the other guy backward down a short flight of concrete stairs. The pushed one landed on the concrete sidewalk outside the bar, hitting his head with a loud crack. Everyone around just stopped and stared.

    My friend quickly dialed 911 while I pushed people out of the way to check his vials, relaying information to my friend on the phone. My friend stayed on the phone and I stayed, checking the guy's vitals, until the ambulance arrived. I also had to keep shoving a drunk girl away who was trying to cradle his bleeding head in her lap - eventually I had a few guys haul her away.

    My friend stopped in at the bar a few days later and found out the guy was okay - he was actually a bouncer at the bar trying to break up a fight between two other guys when they turned on him. He had a concussion and spent a few days in the hospital, but no permanent damage was expected.

    I think in this situation, many of the bystanders were drunk and therefore either too incoherent to help or afraid to have to speak with the cops after they'd been drinking. My friend and I were both driving for others that night (read: sober) and we are both CPR certified, so we didn't think twice about jumping in.

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