My daughter just had a flat tire. It happened not far from home, in a high end gated community. Her car was disabled in an undeveloped area, ten feet off a main road. Lots and lots of people drove by her, a few feet away. Many of them looked at her. She told me that one guy even hung his head out his car window, staring. Her emergency flashers were on, and she was outside the Volvo SUV, a petite blond thirty-something, after her phone call to Triple A, and obviously in need of help. People rode by her on bikes. A man walked his dog by her, a few feet away, twice. And no one asked her if she was Ok, or needed anything.
It's not that people were afraid to stop. She's certainly not a threatening individual. Plus, it was mid day, and the neighborhood has lots of security. Three or four security cars actually drove by during her forty five minute wait for help. One officer waved. But again, even those whose duty is to help didn't. She never tried to flag anyone down. She was taking charge of the situation from the start and calling for a tow truck guy to come help her. But then she waited. And waited, flashers going all the time. She just couldn't help but notice that no one at all inquired about whether she was Ok or needed help.
When she got home, she told me the whole story, astonished that no one tried to be of assistance or had even asked whether there was anything they could do for her. Bu then she said, "It's called diffusion of responsibility." There's, of course, a related tale in the Bible called the story of the Good Samaritan. There's also some stuff in the same text that we often refer to as The Golden Rule. But she didn't experience anyone applying either passage in a positive way on this particular day.
I'm glad she told me the story. I don't want to be one of those guys who sees a need and keeps going. Her experience has reminded me that if we see anything where another person may be in some sort of difficulty, it would be good to stop and at least ask about their wellbeing, or need, and offer to help anyway we can.
And, hey, it's not securing peace in the middle east, but a mindset attuned to be of help does make the world a better place, if only by a little bit. Let's all try to do our bit as we move about through our days.