What would you do if you saw
– a man abuse his wife/ girlfriend
– someone passed out on the sidewalk
– someone stealing something in a store
– a customer being rude to service staff.

I must confess that I’ve often come up short when it comes to showing heroism in situations like this. When I was in college, I acted on behalf of a young girl who was being teased by a man in the bus we were travelling in. No one else acted. And the man turned on to me instead. Is that what keeps me from acting today? Again, I have heard a neighbour beating his wife, and wanted to call the police, only to be stopped because it was a personal matter. I should have known better. I should have acted, but I didn’t and that haunts me even today.

The WWYD Show

I’ve been watching videos on The WWYD Show and am amazed to see how  people respond to situations like the ones I mentioned. The show has actors enact conflict situations or illegal actions in public and secretly films how bystanders respond. Some people ignore the situation or don’t quite know how to respond. But others step in and speak out or act on behalf of those who’ve been ‘victimized’. I found their actions remarkable. I’m sure none of them would consider themselves heroes, but they are.

If you were to commend the actions of these heroes, they’ll probably turn around and tell you that it was nothing, that they didn’t think things through, their actions were instinctive, the adrenalin just kicked in. But if adrenalin and instinct were the only things at work, how come a lot more people in the very same situation didn’t act?

Kevin Heath, CEO of More4Kids says, “A true hero is not someone who thinks about doing what is right, but one that simply does what is right without thinking!” While that may be true, I am convinced that everyday heroes have a very strong sense of right and wrong and it is their need to do what is right that propels them into action.

the wwyd show

According to  Ervin Staub, a professor of psychology emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and author of The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others,  there is no one quality that tells whether a person would act to save or help others. It is a combination of socialization and experience.

Children who are brought up to be caring and to think of others, develop empathy and act to help others. However, empathy alone does not suffice, a degree of competence to act in emergencies is also needed. This is something we must think about as parents, teachers and caring adults. We must inculcate values and teach skills to act in emergencies.

I come back to my first question. What would you do in situations like this?