A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook recently about appearances. In the video a man dressed shabby in jeans and a heavy coat (could be homeless) is walking and starts a couching fit which lands him on the ground.
While lying on the sidewalk many people are walking by him as he calls out for help. In the several minutes of this experiment not one person stops to help although almost all people look towards the man calling out.
Then they show the same man dressed in a suit in the very same situation. In moments of the man falling towards the sidewalk people are coming towards him in all directions to try to help him.
As I watched the video, I was shocked at how many people did not offer any assistance to the fist man. Then I asked myself how many times have I drove past, walked by or simply looked the other way when someone was in distress who did not look “safe” to approach. The answer hurt my heart as I realized I have done just that many times while telling myself it was not safe for a woman to stop, someone else will be by shortly or any other excuse to make myself feel less guilty.
I also realized that often times I do stop even when I know it is not the safest thing to do and I now wonder, “What makes the difference”? I don’t know the answer to this but do know that the video did make me think.
My thoughts varied from how I would feel if it was me lying on the ground to how much my heart watching the video. I thought about the time I did not stop and tried to figure what made the difference for me. Was it a gut feeling or maybe it was dark and considered unsafe? I thought about who I do stop for, children who are lost or crying, the elderly and other women. I stop when I feel a sense of safety with the person I am helping. I tend to shy away from men who are on the side of the road with their hoods up, or are between the ages of 20-50.
I know that I am judging people by age, sex and appearance. I know someone who is elderly could potentially be just as dangerous as the people I tend to avoid. It reminds me of serial killers and how they tempt their victims, they appear “safe”
In the case of the fall falling to the sidewalk in a coughing fit I feel confident I would have stopped to help because the area was well populated and I would have been “safe”, however maybe I would have walked by. Only time will tell.
The general message of the video was to be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t just walk by a fellow person in crisis. Offer help and your assistance. The video offers an opportunity to think about how you would react.
My question to you – if you saw a man (20-40 yrs of age) dressed in rag pants, shirt, or dirty fall to the ground or lying on a sidewalk asking for help, would you stop? What if it was a woman or a child? Would race make a difference for you? Would you want any of these things to make a difference if it was you lying on the sidewalk?