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What Would You Do | The WWYD Show

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?


  1. LuAnn Braley LuAnn Braley October 20, 2015

    I once heard the woman who lived above me in the apartment complex screaming for help. Her boyfriend was beating her up. It was night time and I was scared stiff. I sure didn’t want to meet up with this guy. But I walked out to the front room where my phone was (in the dark because I didn’t want to turn on a light) and had picked up the phone to dial 911 when I heard the police running up the stairs. The door upstairs was opened (in some manner) and they tackled the guy. He must have been high or something, because he kept shouting, “I’m calm! You can let me up,” in a way that you just KNEW he was about as far from calm as a person can get.

    Years later, I worked for four years in a residential/treatment facility for adults with MR/DD. My initial assignment was in a home with high-functioning male clients. I made peace beforehand with the likelihood that I would get injured and that cause some of the fear to evaporate. (I wound up in the ER 5 times in 6 months.) My hesitation to throw myself into possibly dangerous situations all but disappeared, although I’m not sure that that is necessarily a good thing.

    I want to teach my children to not be afraid to make a difference, but want them to be as safe as possible. Because if someone hurts one of my kids, they better run, not walk, to the nearest law enforcement officer and turn themselves in.

  2. Dorothy Johnson Dorothy Johnson July 27, 2014

    I hope I would at least call the police if someone were beating a spouse. (Sometimes the women are the ones who get physical.) And I think I’d come to the aid of someone in physical distress or a person being publicly humiliated. Like some of the other readers, I must admit a certain fear factor enters in because we have so much violence in the USA. I know I would at least call 911. Long ago in a faraway life, a neighbor’s husband wouldn’t let her do anything to help me when my soon-to-be-ex-husband put our children and me in his car and drove away. It was his last-ditch effort to try to convince me to forgive him and come back. Fortunately, I was able to convince him to take me back to my parents’ home. I never felt the same about that man after that evening. What if he had read about us in the newspaper the next?
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  3. Martha Orlando Martha Orlando July 26, 2014

    I’d like to think I would be quick to respond in defending the person in need, but know, too, it would depend on the situation and how critical it was. If I thought interfering would cause danger to myself or others around me, I’d place an emergency call to the police.
    Great thoughts to ponder, Corinne!
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  4. G Angela G Angela July 26, 2014

    Corinne ! It depends on the kind of situation, its not easy to directly interfere, one needs courage to get into these situations to help. I have responded whenever I have met women who seek help; and some times they refuse help, as they prefer to live in abusive situations. David is very impulsive and is quick to respond in the above mentioned situations. I take time, as I worry about the consequences… agree on helping children to be prepared is a useful, thanks for sharing !

  5. Sulekha Sulekha July 25, 2014

    Corinne, I don’t know what I’d do in any of the situations you’ve mentioned. Somehow in the case of a husband-wife, we feel like we trespassing, in some cases they join forces when a third person intervenes. Preparing children to act in emergencies is a great thought.

  6. Debbie Debbie July 25, 2014

    Every situation is different but I would certainly try to help someone in need. You asked: “What would you do if you saw
    – a man abuse his wife/ girlfriend —-If we’re talking physical abuse, I would call 911, but if my husband was with me he would definitely intervene.
    – someone passed out on the sidewalk—–I would either try to revive the person or call for help
    – someone stealing something in a store—–Depends on the situation. If it’s a young kid, I would try to talk them out of it. If it’s an armed robber, I might surreptitiously try to call 911 (or just freeze instead, if I felt it was too dangerous).
    – a customer being rude to service staff.”—–I would speak up and chastise them, asI have done on a few occasions.
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  7. Carol Graham Carol Graham July 25, 2014

    It all depends on the situation but I have no problem stepping in and supporting someone who is being abused publicly. Every time I have done it there was a positive outcome. If it didn’t, I would probably be more hesitant the next time and I think that is one of the deterrents. Years ago I saw a woman crying in her car as she drove down the highway. I motioned for her to pull over. When I approached her car and started talking to her, she was considering suicide and I was able to talk her out of it and get her some help. I believe our gut instincts tell us when to “interfere” and when to walk away.
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  8. Rajlakshmi Rajlakshmi July 25, 2014

    I agree, we do need to be more compassionate about others and children need to be taught empathy, maybe by examples too.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted..The Territory of KitchenMy Profile

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