Thursday, November 17, 2016

Serving Others: The Social Experiment

Have you seen this? It is presented on Youtube as a social experiment. A boy, who says he was abandoned at seven years old, is placed in 5 degrees Fahrenheit conditions without shoes, a jacket, etc. The boy is left standing out in the cold and no one stops to talk to him or help him for two hours. In social psychology there is such a thing as the "bystander effect". This is "the effect in which an increased number of witnesses decreases the likelihood that someone will help another." (Bonds-Raacke, Jennifer. Thinking Critically About Social Psychology. 2016. Dubuque, IA. P. 126.) There is also "diffusion of responsibility", which is "the belief that other bystanders will/ should take responsibility for helping others in need" (Bonds-Raacke, Jennifer. Thinking Critically About Social Psychology. 2016. Dubuque, IA. P. 126.). These are only two of many possible reasons people might not have responded to the boy standing out in the cold.

After two hours, a man approaches the boy, starts talking to him, and offers him assistance. He takes off his own jacket and puts it around the boy. As the man continues talking, we find out he is homeless.

The homeless man knew what it felt like to be in the boy's situation. Even though he had next to nothing, he was willing to give to the boy whatever he could to keep him warm and fed.

Is it easier to help others with whom we can relate? If we have been in their shoes or a similar situation, does that make for kindred spirits? I am not entirely sure. I have actually seen things go both ways. On one hand, I have witnessed a relationship of two who understood each other. On the other, I have seen a relationship of one who perhaps feels he or she had to fight and make his or her own way and so should the other person. Does that make sense? Perhaps compassion or empathy plays a part in here, too, no matter what.

Or what if we concentrate on the part of the circumstance with which we can relate or feel compassion? I do not know what it feels like to be homeless, but I do know what it feels like to be cold. I do not know what it feels like to not be able to buy something to eat...I think the cheapest burger I ever found was under a dollar. But I do know what it feels like to be hungry.

How can we, as human beings, improve upon serving others?

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (Matthew 25:35-40. ESV.)
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