Friday, December 11, 2009

Would you stop or walk on by?

A few weeks ago I was out having dinner at an Italian restaurant when a fight broke out outside the pub next door. The mob grew bigger and chairs got thrown and a guy was knocked unconscious. Being at the back of the restaurant, I didn't like to go and 'gape' but after a few minutes, gape I did. Mainly because a woman at the table next to us was shouting at the waiter to "close the blinds, I don't want to see that kind of thing". When I went up to the window, I asked the other 'gapers' whether anyone had called the police. People looked away and shook their heads - the fight had been going on for a good five minutes! So I called the police and they arrived within a couple of minutes and all was well in the world again.

It got me thinking about people, and about myself. I couldn't have sat there and shut the blinds, knowing what was going on outside, yet the woman at the next table was seriously suggesting that this was a valid thing to do.

This morning as I walked to my bus stop on the way to work, I noticed a couple of lads across the street being aggressive towards a woman in her late 40s. She had learning difficulties and was getting quite vocal and upset. Instead of walking away, the boys started pushing her and eventually spat on her. They SPAT on her. The woman hit one of the boys on the arm and his response? He went to punch her. At this point, I ran across the road and stepped in betweeen the boys and the woman. The woman was sobbing and hanging on to me as I calmly asked the still abusive lads to walk on.

They eventually walked away and I took the woman to her local college where she was late for a class and then carried on to work.

Now I sit here and I ask myself... was I stupid or was I doing the right thing? It doesn't always pay to be a good Samaritan. But why do people respond so differently to situations? Out of the twenty or so people on the street this morning, there was only myself and one other man who went to help. Is it because of the media reporting so many situations where getting involved has been the wrong thing to do?

Or is it just because we have been brought up to 'walk on by'?


  1. A few years ago I stopped to offer help to a woman who was changing a tyre, she told me to F off, go figure. It didn't put me off though and if I see someone in trouble I always try to help, it's a Karma thing I think. Anyway, being a good Samaritan can I've no doubt be possibly dangerous particularly in the incident described above with the abusive boys, but could you forgive yourself if you'd walked away? I dont think so. Great post BTW.

  2. I don't know what it is. . . but you've got it right. The other day my 3 1/2 year old son thought I'd left him at Target. He thought he saw me leaving -- I was paying. He ran after the lady he thought was me. I heard him calling, "wait! wait!" and I took off running after him, yelling, "John!!" at the top of my lungs. NOBODY STOPPED HIM. AS he was leaving the store an older woman timidly said, 'wait, honey' and put out her hand. Thankfully it WAS enough to at least pull his attention away a bit and he heard me yelling. I would have been all over a kid, had I saw something like that. I KNOW I've thrown myself in other people's business. Maybe it bugged them? Do I care? I don't think we can afford to walk on by in this society. You are right.

  3. For me it's fear when there's people fighting on the street, however I would definitely have phoned the police in the restaurant situation. I'm happy to hide and phone the police and keep an eye to make sure they appear, but I couldn't even stand up for myself if someone attacked me, let alone step in if someone else was being attacked.
    The world would definitely be a much nicer place if more people were like you though.

  4. Hi-followed over from Jens...I think we have been conditioned to "not get involved"..I, like you would have (and in situations in my life) and have stepped in. It is the right thing to do..
    The woman who asked for the blinds to be closed is as big a part of the problem s the boys who taunted the woman on the street.*sigh*

  5. Kathleen is right. It's the 'don't get involved' mentality, because getting involved inevitably brings complications. I'm terrible at confrontation, but there's no way I would have pulled the blinds. I'd have phoned the police. And as for the woman, I'm not sure - I'd like to think I'd have stepped in but would I?

  6. Hi I also followed from Jens. I think you definitely did the right thing! I always try put myself in their situation and ask how I would feel if people just walked by me when I needed help. I'd like to think I would step in acting on instinct. xx

  7. Thanks all! It's been really nice to get some feedback on this. I completely understand how difficult it can be to step into an argument and I don't think badly of the people who didn't want to confront the lads. I DO feel badly of the woman in the restaurant; I just can't believe that people can be so callous! I'd like to think that someone would help me if I was in trouble so I shall continue to do my bit and make a nuisance of myself if need be!

  8. You definitely are the exception in today's society. I think it's all about reading the situation and knowing when to call the police or step in yourself. You don't want to risk getting hurt yourself...but I don't think that that's the reason that the people who walk by don't stop.

  9. I would have gone to help her too, if I am honest because I couldn't walk past that lady, just no way. Nor could I ask for the blinds to be pulled on a fight. I wouldn't go out to the fight though! People are afraid mostly because there seems to be so much agression these days, but I agree with Lynn, people walking past that lady weren't afraid. Jen


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