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Hay Group

Wow this is a great story, it's just ridiculous that so many people stood around and did nothing while this man lay on the ground. When you bring up the part about food companies only thinking of themselves, it reminds me of when companies don't accurately compensate their employees. It's disgusting that companies often times rob their employees by underpaying them and keeping the rest. Businesses should get help and more Reward information from the Hay Group at http://www.haygroup.com/ww/services/index.aspx?ID=112.

Reid Simmons

Kudos to you for your action and thank you for sharing this story. I've been through similar moments. What strikes me most is the 'null' nature so many people have. Instead of the obvious route (help the man up, pick up the bag) people wanted to call the EMS or just watch. Why are they doing that, I wonder?

Your fixation on "Why?" will have a powerful effect -- so few people understand why they do anything. I know that this question is the one that shapes my life most powerfully.

As the Japanese say, gambate!


About 5 years ago, I lived in New York City. I was 2 months pregnant, but I wasn't showing yet so no-one could tell. One day after leaving for work I got about three blocks down the street, when a wave of morning sickness hit me like the Hammer of Thor.

I tried to move out of the way so people could get by, but I ended up crumpled on the ground instead.

People walking by me took a quick glance and walked a little faster, played with their ipods, stared at their shoes, but no one stopped. I knew I wasn't in any immediate danger, but they didn't and I think the whole thing made them very uncomfortable. After a few minutes, a lady came up to me with genuine concern and her cell phone in her hand. She asked if I needed her to call for help. It took me a minute to catch my breath, but I explained that all was well, just a little morning sickness, nothing to do but wait it out.

She looked at me thoughtfully, rummaged around in her purse and with a knowing look, handed me a napkin and a mint.

Nothing, NOTHING, in the world, before or since, has ever tasted good as that mint.

She never touched me, she didn't offer to fix the problem, or offer more than she could deliver, but when she gave what she had to give she became my guardian angel.

What I'm saying is this:

If you see someone in need, but not a compassionate person to help them, that's because the compassionate person is *you*. Somedays you're the only one who acts, some days the crowds of awesomeness are so thick you can't even get through them to lend a hand. It can be particularly frustrating when it feels like the piece of the world you're currently occupying is understaffed.

Thanks for being a compassionate person. I wish for you what I wished for that wonderful lady and every other awesome person that appears at just the right moment - and more importantly - takes action:

A fast commute, delicious food and a day filled with copious displays of affinity and gratitude from the people you love the most.

And don't worry, New York is still filled with amazing human beings made of tough character and huge hearts. I'm sure all those heartless bastards you saw that day were from California. (kidding!)


The book I referred to above is
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
By Robert Cialdini

I highly recommend it. It is an interesting approach to systematizing our more or less automatic responses to the complex set of situations we face everyday.


Cialdini writes about this in his book (great book, don't have the title with me). This is an example of social proof. When we are in uncertain situations we look at what others are doing and follow their example. Once you set the example of helping others followed your lead.

Robert Cialdini's suggestion is that if you find yourself in a similar situation don't say "Somebody help!". Instead point to one person and tell them what to do. Call 911. Help me up. Etc. Once the first person starts doing something others will become unfrozen and pitch in.

Irene Gutteridge

Hi Simon
I"ve recently come to know your name and what you do, what you believe in by a good friend, someone who would do what you did in the above scenario, and then go on to write a post about it - He is actually the blogger that made me aware of your TED talk.

I don't have anything eloquent to write about your experience except that it is damn good that interactions like that fire you up and bring tears to your face. I know for me they do.
I'll be reading, keep it up! IRene.


Thank you for sharing and caring, Simon.

Luciano Palma

I will NOT lose my faith.

You know Why? Because until we have people like YOU doing what you do, there will be faith.

People like you will change the world for beter, and let everyone have not just faith, but also proudness.

It will take time. Maybe you and me won't see the job done. But I'm 100% convinced that you'll continuing doing what you do.

Because you believe in it. I'm sure you have a strange interior feeling saying to yourself: "I must do it. It's a kind o mission, and I'll do it".

And you did it.
Do you have any idea of how many people that saw what happened or read this post will immediatelly feel an interior force pushing them to act next time an old man falls or something like happens?

You reinforced my faith. Thanks!

kare anderson

Clearly you touched a nerve with many of us with your specific recounting of this incident and your reactions to it. You took the first two steps - embody the action you advocate then writing about it.

Clay Shirky writes that "“We are moving from sharing to cooperation to collective action." yet that may be more true online or via a mobile device.

Increasingly in the U.S. people avoid eye contact and touch. Even among friends there is less physicality than in many "less developed" countries... making that more a part of our daily life rather than remaining observers with our devices in our hands may make it more likely that we will reach out and act our the humanity we may be writing about online.

You may be interested in Sherry Turkel's upcoming book, Alone Together. She writes, “Our model of what it was to be present to each other, we thought we liked that,” she said. “But it turns out that time shifting is our most valued product. This new technology is about control. Emotional control and time control.”

JC Duarte

Totally get your point Simon! Very unfortunate but true! I can say that we see this less in Europe! I myself had an motorcycle accident two months ago & whilst severely limited, as I crutch or wheelchair myself around both Barcelona (Paris last week) more often than not people offer to help me even when I don't seem to be distressed. People give-up their taxi's, they hold doors & even often offer to help me get into my flat when they see me pushing the front door open with my crutch whilst balancing on the other. I lived in the US for 22 years & have now lived in Europe for the last 19. I love the US but do have to say that I have found Europe & Australia the most empathetic of societies.

As a contribution to creating a more empathetic society, I offer up this 10m video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g appropriately named "The Empathic Civilisation". I think we can learn a lot about "empathy" and our "fellow man".

Keep the faith!


Hi Simon,

Nice post. Do not loose faith, this is a real issue that need to be addressed. And let me tell you that all those people who just stood & watched would have helped if they did not have those questions in their mind. What questions? ok, let me explain how an ordinary guy on the street might think before helping.

How did this person get into trouble? If the person is in trouble due to his own unacceptable actions (like a hand-combat with someone, overly drunk), i don't want to get into this and get mangled with cops. He should understand the consequences of irresponsible behavior.

How much help is required? If it seems that it would require more than me helping out the person just for today, i might not be willing. I am happy giving short-term help to many people that long-term help to a few. I do not like liabilities.

Can I help? (a) Medical situation, i might do more harm than good. Better call medics. OR (b) I am late for this meeting, if i stop to help, i would be a victim in office. Anyways, there are so many others around to help.

These are just some of the questions. How do we change our systems (like procedures with the hospital, police) so that helping out a stranger on the street is encouraged is the question we need to find an answer to. I would need the crowd, police, hospital, my boss, family to understand that helping a fellow human being (whoever he is) in trouble is a noble deed.

Your blog inspires us all. As Mahatma Gandhi said "be the change you want to see in the world". I would help the next guy who needs my assistance, no questions asked.

JF Grissom

Hi Simon,

How passionate is this post ?... and the lofty aspirations! It moves me... Who wouldn't enjoy a world where "The good samaritan" could be free of worry to just do the right thing?

I hate to admit this rather cynical paradigm, but I think for the people standing around like idiots there is a not lot of conditioned incentive to do the right thing... and a lot of conditioned disincentives actually.

Based on the behavior of the people you witnessed it is apparent that they "likely" wanted to help but probably wrestled with the fear of being responsible for "more" than simply helping the man up.

Thankfully you didn't think of things to be worried about, instead you thought only of helping... (admirable indeed).

It isn't likely that they were all jerks... Were they simply behaving poorly as a response to their unseen conditioned fears?

If there was more publicizing of rewards for good (people helping people) behavior and less sensationalization of poor (people hurting people) behavior would it condition our society to respond in the reverse of what you witnessed?

Maybe by increasing societies standard and acceptance of "good behavior" it would be possible to help forge a better place to live. Maybee...

I really enjoyed your post!


Conni Mainne

Simon, you state so clearly that your Why is to inspire others to do what inspires them. It's no surprise, really, that you encounter opportunities to inspire in many different forms. This may have been both an opportunity to inspire others, while strengthening your faith in a potentially vulnerable area.

Embracing every opportunity to inspire must bring you joy and fulfillment, knowing that you are one person making a powerful difference, making a map for others to find and follow in our own unique ways. I believe that leaders, among all their other activities and qualities, hold an unwavering vision of a brighter future, not buying into the imbalances of the present.

You helped a man, and caused a ripple in the ponds of the hearts and minds of witnesses. It's exactly in alignment with your Why. What I admire about you is the consistency with which you live your principles. Now that's inspiring.


I've seen many good examples, including when people trip or fall down, in NYC where people help each other out. It is unfortunate that in this instance no one was able to help. But I wonder if it was because they just didn't know what to do since they were not used to acting in an emergency. Recently, a homeless man bleed to death after saving someone from being attacked. It was caught on video - many people walked by or looked at him and did nothing. Most people don't have the training or mindset to deal with exceptional situations.

Amy Chan

Thank you for this post. It's unfortunate that people in crowds are a lot less likely to offer help and I too, hope that by setting an example ourselves, this will create a change in attitude and mentality in the world.

Thank you for sharing.

Kytka Hilmar-Jezek

Thank you for sharing this glimpse into a scene that is sadly, played again and again, over and over on countless sidewalks, in countless cities. As a mother of 3, my greatest WHY is to co-create the world to be better, more compassionate and aware for them. Ancient principles and common sense guide me even though I often find myself standing alone, as you were this day. Yes, there are many people around - but it is as though they are sleepwalking and not awakened to what is happening around them. It takes courage to be the first one, to lead - but it also takes courage to be the first follower - because there is a tipping point in when people will follow. I applaud you for acting from your heart, and to the first follower who needed "permission" to act. You are an inspiration Simon...

I saw this video last week, and it illustrates, in a much lighter way, what you speak of here. Being first, being second and when it becomes the "norm". One by one, we SHALL transform the world and our species the brilliance, love and compassion they are capable of... One by one.


Thank you for being who you are - but more so, for clearly defining your why in the world and teaching other that it is okay to do the same...


This obviously didn't happen in New Mexico or Texas. As a general good Samaritan from one living in the other I am often competing to help folks out no matter the circumstances. You ought to come on down and visit sometime...


What a sad thing to witness. But just maybe by stepping in and helping, you inspired the bystanders to do the same in the future.

Jae Sook, Kim

When I saw the lackness of the others, I have depressed and blame the others. But now I am not depressed any more. Because at that time, I have a chance to grow and help the others. And that events make me think about the reason and the way to help and reflect on myself about the other side of my life deeply.
This is my great teacher's instruction.
As the poor want wealth, the combative want peace.
As the lame person looks for a cane, an ill person looks for a doctor.
As darkness calls for light, the apocalypse calls for your mercy and love.
As the time of chaos in China called forth Confucius,
As the dismal time in Indochina called forth Buddha,
As the dismal time of Israel called forth Jesus.
So the dismal times today call for me.

When the wealthy abandon the poor,
When the lame refuse a cane and light leaves darkness,
That means they give up their own duty.
Salt does not avoid rotting food, because salt is a food preservative.
A teacher loves ignorant people and does not complain or shun them
because the teacher's job is to enlighten them and make them knowledgeable.

Like the person above who realized why one does not avoid ignorant people, so I came for the unwise people.

- written by SangDae,Lee(Perfect One World)

Account Deleted

Simon, Great Post. I have seen this behavior everywhere, whether it is rural or urban. .In 1980's people have time to think about their society, their fellow citizens etc. But now we're spending more time on Tweeting & listening to music in Ipod. Have you been a part of any charity? Have you ever helped ur neighbors? Its time to ask these questions to ourselves. Instead of pointing others, we should work together & inspire others for the cause we believe.

Matt Edmundson

I was walking with my family and a friend recently. The friend collapsed. My wife and 2 out of 3 kids went to get the car to take her home. I was left with my son and our friend.

Many people passed by and could see that she was not well. She was on the floor, and I'd wrapped her in a foil blanket for warmth. it was obvious something was wrong.

Yet no-one stopped. This is in the UK by-the-way, in a park not the middle of the urban jungle.

The good news was - I knew what to do. I have got involved in many situations where medical help was needed but people just stood and watched.

I wonder if it is to do with not knowing what to do. So everyone is looking to everyone else to see if they know. Then nothing gets done.

Stephanie Bressan

Ps: I remembered, it's called 'The Bystander Effect'!

Stephanie Bressan

Oh Simon I cried reading this. It's heartbreaking... Sadly it is a social phenomenon (read about Kitty Genovese), still I can't imagine not helping. I remember once stopping my car to walk back down the street to help a drunk who had fallen and his head was on the road. There was a small crowd around him just looking. They even warned me not to touch him in case he was violent; he was paralytic how could he be violent? We, as a culture tend to think 'someone else's problem' 'let someone else fix it', but the truth is every single one of us who remembers that people are individuals, someones grandpa or husband, someones loved one, and get in and help, will encourage others. So take heart dear Simon, you were there for a reason and all who saw will next time make a difference (I hope, I'm an optimist too!!).

Arnold Beekes

I totally agree, that we have to be the change that we would like to see in the world.
Therefor we have set up the Creativist Society. I invite you all to contribute. Have a look at http://bit.ly/cLCIml.

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