Kitty Genovese was brutally attacked as she returned to her apartment late one night. She screamed and shrieked as she fought for her life . . . yelling until she was hoarse . . . for thirty minutes . . . as she was beaten and abused. Thirty-eight people watched the half-hour episode from their windows with rapt fascination. Not one so much as walked over to the telephone and called the police. Kitty died that night as thirty-eight witnesses stared in silence.
Andrew Mormille’s experience was similar. Riding on a subway, the seventeen-year-old youth was quietly minding his own business when he was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by attackers. Eleven riders watched the stabbing, but none came to assist the young man. Even after the thugs had fled and the train had pulled out of the station, as he lay in a pool of his own blood, not one of the eleven came to his side.
Less dramatic but equally shocking was the ordeal of Eleanor Bradley. While shopping on Fifth Avenue in busy Manhattan, this lady tripped and broke her leg. Dazed, anguished, and in shock, she called out for help. Not for two minutes. Not for twenty minutes. But forty minutes, as shoppers and business executives, students and merchants walked around her and stepped over her, completely ignoring her cries. After literally hundreds had passed by, a cab driver finally pulled over, hauled her into his taxi, and took her to a local hospital.
I heard of an experiment a small band of seminary students carried out on fellow members of their class some time ago. I know it is true because I later spoke with one of the men involved. The class was given an assignment on Luke 10:30–37, the familiar account of the Good Samaritan. The assignment was due the next day. Most of the men in that class traveled along the same pathway leading to the classroom the next morning. One of the seminarians in the experiment wore old, torn clothing, disguised himself as though he had been beaten and bruised, and placed himself along the path, clearly in view of all the young students making their way back to class. With their assignments neatly written, carefully documented, and tucked under their arms, not one seminarian so much as paused to come to his assistance or wipe the catsup off his neck and chest.
Intellectually, the assignment on love and caring was completed. But personally? Well, you decide.
What’s happening? Why the passivity? How can we explain the gross lack of involvement in our world today and especially among Christians? We’ll talk about that tomorrow. For now, go out on a limb: ask God to let you help someone in urgent distress in the immediate future. Be sensitive . . . He’s going to answer your request! And take extra time today to thank God for the constant protection you enjoy from Him, allowing you to reach out confidently to others (read Psalm 121:7–8). Be ready!