Are We Too Busy to Be Good Samaritans?

Have you ever had a chance to help a stranded motorist push his dead car out of an intersection? Or to aid in a traffic accident? Did you take that opportunity? When we become the one who needs help and nobody stops, it changes our perspective.

On the way home today I noticed up ahead on the freeway a gigantic cloud of smoke followed by the sudden glare of dozens of brake lights. As I came closer, I could see a car swerving first to the left and then to the right. It came to a stop part way on the shoulder and part way in the right lane of traffic, all four tires belching smoke that had once been tread. The cars ahead of me streamed around the forlorn driver as she sat wondering what had just happened. I pulled over to the shoulder and backed up to see if she needed help. By that time she had gathered her wits, and, being uninjured, drove back into traffic, waving a thank you to me for taking the time to stop.

What made me stop? I'll admit that as often as not, I'm way too busy to pull over and give assistance. But what made me stop is the way I felt the other day when no one stopped for me.

I don't know if it's the I'm-Too-Busy syndrome or the Somebody-Else-Will-Take-Care-of-It syndrome, but we don't stop often enough to help each other. Just as in a crowded room, on a busy freeway full of cars we are far too often complete strangers to one another as we proceed down the roads of our separate anonymities.

Have you ever been behind a car that has stalled? "Da%$it", I've found myself thinking. "I'm in a hurry! " And I get angrier as the cars behind me are able shift into the other lane and escape the obstacle ahead of me.

Then, recently, my van broke down in the middle of a busy street. My wife was there, so she steered the car as I pushed it down to and around the nearest corner and into a parking lot, a stream of sweat running down my face and a heart attack making its contemplation. The image that I remember most in that ordeal was the look of intense irritation on the face of the 'gentleman' in the brown Ford pickup directly behind me, wondering when the hell I was going to get out of his way.

That is not a fond image in my memory. So now, every chance I get, I'm going to stop to help.


  1. I too frequently have played the part of the priest or the Levite in the Good Samaritan parable, and have passed on by without helping. Sometimes I have stopped and helped, particularly when no one else was already helping. It often feels awkward and even sometimes dangerous (depending on the situation) to stop and approach someone that might be in need.

    A couple of times when the situation has appeared unsafe, or when I have had a bad feeling about stopping, I have instead called 911 and asked them to send someone.

    Your advice to care enough to help is good advice for all of us.

  2. Also, I'm much less likely to stop if I have my whole family (with young kids) in the car.


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