There is an anomaly called the bystander effect, where individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when there are other people present; the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help. So it can actually be more dangerous to be injured in a busy train station than out in the woods. The bystander effect is such a powerful psychological phenomena that many states and countries have enacted laws to counteract this. The Good Samaritan laws were created to encourage people to step up and help someone who is in trouble. It is seen as our ethical, moral and legal obligation to help when we are able to. Failure to do so can result in fines, lawsuits or in extreme cases, jail time.
Sadly, many people in modern society spend so much time staring at screens, that they have become detached from reality. When conflict arises, many people’s first reaction is to whip out their phones and record a tragedy unfold. And these tragedies are uploaded to the web for everyone on earth to see. The misfortunes of 7.8 billion people are broadcast onto our screens for us to mindlessly consume to the point where we become numb and disassociate these events from reality. As a result, when real situations happen right in front of us, the conditioned response is to record the event rather than try to offer help.
With all the chaos in the news and on social media, We can often feel powerless to affect any change on a macro level. How can your kindness and empathy have any impact on tragic events happening on the other side of the world? And the truth is, it can’t. There is nothing you can do to affect the events you see on your screen. The reality is, we can’t change the world. But...we can change ourselves. We have the power to change who we are, to shape ourselves into a beacon of good, to do the right thing, be mindful, be kind, act on compassion and take the high road. And if we all followed in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan, this world would change overnight. You may not be able to change the world, but always remember, you have the power to change yourself, and THAT will change the world. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Gandhi
If you act on compassion when the moment presents itself, you will have a meaningful life. Mark Twain said it best, “You’re never wrong to do the right thing.” So the next time you see someone in need, don’t ask the question “Is this my neighbor?”, the far more important question is, “Am I being a neighbor?” Don’t be the bystander that stays in the dark. Do as the Good Samaritan and you will move closer to a life of purpose.