Society and the “Halfway Decent” Samaritan

good vs apathy

What’s happened to us?

Recently, a report concerning a man being shot at a convenience store gained headlines. No, not (sadly) because being shot in front of a convenience store in-and-of-itself was unusual, but rather due to the behavior of the customers who subsequently WALKED OVER his body, in the doorway:


I thought this must be some sort of unthinkably sick prank, until I read the following account. It seems that this actually occurred back in 2012, and we’re only seeing the video now because the shooter is on trial:

(via The UK Daily Mail) – “…Shocking surveillance footage shows the moment that a man who had been shot was stepped over by customers at a convenience store. Jheryl Wright, 31, was fatally shot in September 2012 as he left a shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

As Mr Wright lay dying, customers and clerks at the store ignored him for almost five minutes, some even callously stepping over his body.

» In the disturbing images, two men leave the store, look down at the man’s body and walk on.
» The store clerk peers over the counter at the shooting victim – but does nothing.
» Another customer steps over the body twice as he leaves and then re-enters the store.
» After about five minutes, a man comes into the shop, sees that the man is clearly seriously injured and makes a call on his cell phone.

The footage came to light last week during the trial of Clarence Ross, who was found guilty of Mr Wright’s murder. He is due to be sentenced next month…” 

Horrific? Yeah, and then some. How could anyone, ANYONE, ignore a person who was so obviously, blatantly in dire need of assistance?

This story is remarkably similar to the Parable of the Good Samaritan (LUKE 10: 25-37), the obvious difference being that this time around, we were minus the Samaritan. But before you dismiss this whole tale as some isolated occurrence, or even as a Sunday School parable, be aware that this is not even close to a singular event.

From 2010:

But why? What sort of unfeeling creeps have we become?

Or worse: have we always been this way?

Last summer, I wrote a post that detailed my own experience with a slightly less tragic example of this. A woman’s car had died, stranding her (and her three very young children) in a hot vehicle, in the middle of traffic on a busy shopping mall exit road. By the time I drove up, she’d been there for 45 minutes…and somehow I was still the first person to offer assistance.

Yes, …really.

My personal take on this is that our society is no longer teaching common, basic social expectations to our children: courteousness, gratitude, empathy, right-and-wrong. Too many kids today can’t begin to list all of the Ten Commandments, yet they’ll happily click on the “TEN Most Outrageous Cat Pictures EVER” on Buzzfeed or Facebook, every time.

This is learned behavior, and they’ve learned it terrifyingly well. But anything that one generation can learn, the next one can unlearn. And that knowledge, knowing that this is indeed “learned”, allows me to …hope.

HOPE 333

I stopped to help that woman because I’d been trained pretty much since birth that THAT was what you DID, period. Far from being a big deal, it was merely the baseline expectation for everyone where I was raised, male or female. And the folks teaching me were not only my parents: they were my neighbors, my older co-workers, my friends, and my teachers.

In short, it was pretty much everyone.

But now, today, things are different. People are terrified of lawsuits, of retribution, of “getting involved”. I certainly understand the fear, but if we give into it, if we hide and cower from the world, …then we’re doomed: figuratively now, and quite literally later on.

Since it’s blizzard weather, ask yourself: if someone’s stuck in the snow, do we simply drive around them, muttering something about them learning how to drive? Or do we get out and try to free them, or at least roll down our window and offer to help?

smiley-face 33Do we and/or our children shovel the driveway for the elderly person in our neighborhood, knowing they can’t do it themselves? Are we saying “Hello!” or “Good Morning!” mechanically, or are we greeting people with an honest smile in our hearts? If there’s someone whom we know spends a lot of time alone (no family, divorced, or whatever), have we invited them to dinner? Not just at Thanksgiving, mind you: anytime, even if we can’t cook and it’s only for pizza?

We are each called to be the “Good Samaritan”, although merely being the Halfway Decent Samaritan would be a marked improvement sometimes.

And if we each made a commitment to not only do this in our own lives but to also try to teach this to the next generation, there just might be enough of us to bring some civility back to our neighborhoods and streets. Yet no matter how many of us there are, we are called to try.

‘Cause if we don’t, we probably shouldn’t expect too much when it’s us bleeding in the doorway…

17 responses to “Society and the “Halfway Decent” Samaritan

  1. It’s a sad, sad thing that this post had to be written… the Golden Rule has become tarnished, and yes, it is up to each and every individual to polish it up again.

    AMEN dear brother.

    • Thanks, Teach.

      I never actually enjoy writing these, but to turn a blind eye to such reality is no better than what these people in the video did.
      We can’t fight evil, or apathy, or ignorance by averting our own eyes. We fight them by accepting their existence and spreading Truth.

      Glad you’re on our side………

  2. livinrightinpgh

    Sadly, all too often, it’s the same people who step over or around someone in need who cry out “why wouldn’t anyone help” when it’s them or someone they know who is “in need”. Does someone have to consider themselves a “Christian” to observe the “Golden Rule”?

    Lord, I hope and pray THAT’S not so.

    Back in 1990, I got out of my car in Atlanta to go to a meeting when a young man knocked a lady down and took her purse. I chased him behind a building and when he saw the “intent” in my eyes, he dropped the purse and took off. By the time I got back to where the lady was, the police had arrived. I handed her the purse. She promptly told the police she “wasn’t going to get involved”, didn’t thank me, and left the scene. The officer looked at me and said: “Well, I guess your efforts weren’t worth it!”, to which I replied “I didn’t do it for her gratitude. I did it because it was the right thing to do.”

    • “to which I replied “I didn’t do it for her gratitude. I did it because it was the right thing to do.”” … AMEN!!!

    • I’ve seen that “look”, Pgh: i don’t blame the dude for taking off, especially in your younger days…

      And as I responded to Teach below: yes, we do these things because they’re RIGHT, which is its own reward.

      • livinrightinpgh

        It was the “You’re about to get an ‘education’ look”, bro! As Mom always said: Some lessons in life just simply hurt more than others.

        Now, I would only be able to aggressively HOLLER at the punk. Forget the running part! LOL!

  3. I blame lawyers and our litigious society. I could elaborate but then this comment would resemble the comments at the New York Times. You know the ones that are longer than the original piece. Suffice it to say, here in New Jersey, if you are a witness in a case and are deposed then everything is fair game. They can ask anything about you personally, it does not have to be related to the case. I won’t even discuss what happens when you are sued. I agree with everything you said; but for too many, life has taught a good deed never goes unpunished.

    • Having spent many, many years in insurance dealing with liability lawsuits and coverage, I’m all-too-aware of how litigious we’ve become. It’s one reason why folks don’t wish to “get involved”, true.
      But as I said: that can’t be our only decision. Where does our humanity end and our reasonable fear of a lawsuit begin?

      And if this truly is part of the problem (and I agree with you that it is), all the more reason to change the tort laws.
      People shouldn’t become less human out of fear of being sued for attempting to help.

      Thanks for the comment, brudda…..

  4. Great perspective! People have become so self-centered, especially the youngest children! Technology has made us more impersonal than ever!

    • Michael!
      Wonderful to have you visit our humble home, my friend, and thanks for the kind words. As I mentioned to Biltrix (below), I agree that technology may have something to do with how we interact with each other today.

      But it’s not a zero sum game: we can still use modern day tech and remain caring human beings. It’s just gonna take some awareness of the problem…

  5. It really is sad and hard to believe. Then again, I’ve lived in NYC and was inundated in the apathetic atmosphere. Not that New Yorkers are bad people, or that this only applies to New York. It’s just that there’s one place where it weighs on you every day, that is, despite all the great things we could say about NY and it’s people and they are great people. Yet the culture of apathy is THICK there. And you know, I’m seeing more of it now in the South, known for its warm Southern Hospitality. Even the common courtesies of “good morning,” “how are you?” are getting to be so uncommon that when you say it, people start to look at you like “What do you want?”

    Not to linger on the bad things though. There’s still good out there. Here are some extraordinary examples (I hate the music they chose) of just he opposite of what the other videos showed. A bit long, but if you watch for a minute, the next six will pass in a flash:

    • Extremely impressive video, James. Can’t say I dislike the music: sounds like something out of the ‘Bourne’ movies, but I can understand if it’s not your taste.

      As for the bad behavior we seek to avoid: you’re correct that it’s not limited to NYC, as you can find such behavior anywhere (but perhaps especially in the big cities).
      And I shouldn’t over-simplify this trend, either: there are numerous factors, including our having become insulated, mentally, and are somehow just oblivious to others. I truly believe that aberrant situations often simply don’t register as they once did: it’s like people don’t actually believe what they’re seeing, and thus ignore it.
      I wonder if it’s because of how much “virtual” time our brains spend viewing video/TV/internet, and when we see something which doesn’t seem normal, we just filter it out.
      I’m no scientist, but this seems plausible to me.

      Thanks (as always) for your thoughtful comments! Delighted to see you back here on a somewhat more regular basis.
      Dude, we seriously missed ya! 😀

      • One thing I’ll never forget was passing the same homeless people on the way to class every morning when I took summer courses at City University of New York. Two summers, exact same people, doing the exact same thing, at the same time, every day — with one exception. This one guy wasn’t sleeping on the sidewalk one day because they were hosing it off, but he was standing there watching them do their job. The next morning he was laying right there on the sidewalk on Madison Avenue between 37th and 36th street at 7:00 am with bustling New Yorkers stepping around him or over him if the sidewalk was crowded. And I was one of the crowd. I say that because I can empathize. That was all very normal and we were all numb to it.

  6. I wonder if another reason for such behavior is that we’re moving more and more toward a nanny state. Since government takes care of progressively more issues, psychologically our society is simply taking on the role of diaper babies. “Nanny will take care of any problems. I don’t need to get involved.”

    We used to be a society that “self-governed”; as in we took responsibility and governed our own lives. Since government wasn’t around 24/7 we took care of each other too and worked for the good of our neighbor. Whenever there’s a problem, it seems like too many people’s first thought is, “What will the government do about it?”

    Maybe this is all a stretch, but I wonder….

  7. Pingback: Choose Life: “Darby’s Story” | Two Heads are Better Than One

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