Would you help a guy on the sidewalk?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Doctor Q, Mar 28, 2007.

  1. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Suppose you were walking down a street in your town and you came to a man, lying on the sidewalk asking for help (or by the side of the road if you don't have a sidewalk). It's broad daylight, and there are other people around, but he's asking you. You don't know what type of help he is asking for.

    Let's assume he's "average" -- in his 30s, dressed like a blue collar worker (not rags, not a business suit), the same race you are, carrying no possessions, and he doesn't smell awful or look crazed.

    Would you ask what's wrong and try to help, go on about your business and hope somebody else helps him, or avoid eye contact and not care at all?

    Maybe he had a heart attack and needs an ambulance. Maybe he tripped and twisted his ankle. Maybe he's homeless and needs a blanket. But maybe he's drunk, wants to beg for money, or was injured while escaping from prison.

    It's admirable to try to help someone, and that might be your instinct. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But there are plenty of reasons not to get involved. You might always be in a hurry with too much to do. You might worry about doing the wrong thing and hurting the guy. You might worry about getting sued (we've all heard those stories). You might not want to get involved in case there's crime involved. You might be wary about it being a trick of some kind. "No use asking for trouble."

    So this is a little personality self-assessment. What would you be most likely to do? Or has this actually happened to you? I'm particularly interested in whether people from small towns are more likely to help a random stranger than people in big cities.
  2. xJulianx macrumors 6502a


    Oct 1, 2006
    Brighton, UK
    I would certainly help him/her. Just the other day I helped an old man up after seeing him fall over in town.
  3. SuperCompu2 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2006
    I suppose it would depend on the kind of person you are. I know if a person truly needed help I wouldn't hesitate. It also depends on how they asked for help:

    "excuse me, could you help me please?"


    "hey, can you help me out here?"

    Pretty much all but the second are nor mal instances, but I definately wouldnt hesitate on the second.
  4. dornoforpyros macrumors 68040


    Oct 19, 2004
    Calgary, AB
    If I'm the first person there available to help, then yes, I'll at least see what the problem is. If he has a sob story and is begging for money I'll tell him to have a nice day and continue on my merry way.

    There have been times when I'm downtown and I've seen people who appear to have fallen or are in some medical distress, but by the time I've walked past there was already a group of people helping, seeing as I'm not a doctor, and one more person asking "are you ok" doesn't help the matter at all I've simply continued on my way past.

    I think it's a sad state of affairs if people are worried about a lawsuit over helping their fellow man. If you don't believe the person's story "my daughter is having surgery and I just lost my wallet and I need cab fare" then you are free to tell them "I'm sorry, but I can't help you" and walk away.

    Yes, there is a 1 in a million chance that by stopping you are setting yourself up to be mugged, but honestly, who wants to live in fear?
  5. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Sure...I've done it. I figured out that a confused guy was hypoglycemic and got him some of his glucose tablets and got the paramedics there for him.
  6. Lau Guest

    If, as you say, he was asking for help directly, I think I would stop. Certainly when people come up to me on the street and say "Excuse me" I do stop and hear what they have to say, even if it means saying "Sorry, no" if I can't help or they're being dodgy.

    It's harder to gauge if he wasn't directly asking, I think. In a city you do see various folk sitting or lying on the pavement, and although it doesn't stop being noticeable, it's hard to know whether people want to just be left alone or to be helped. Not entirely the same situation, but I was in a bar at about 6pm the other day, and when I went to the toilet, I could hear someone throwing up a few cubicles along (no-one else was in the toilet). At 6pm it's less likely to be someone off their face, and I almost knocked on the door and asked if they were ok. Then I thought of any times I've been sick, and thought how I'd just want to be left alone to get on with it, so didn't, but kept an eye for someone coming out, and thought I could go back in 10 minutes if she wasn't out. She came out 5 minutes later, anyway.

    I suppose to an extent, the kind of person they seem would have something to do with it. On a last-minute dash to the off-licence at 9.45pm last night, I asked an old lady if she was ok, as it looked as if she'd dropped something on the floor and was searching through her bag, and it was fairly late. I think she appreciated it, as she smiled at me as I was coming out of the corner shop. I'd be more likely to ask someone older if they were ok than someone younger, I think.

    My dad collapsed in the street a few years ago, and the kindness of strangers and the fact they called an ambulance was incredibly important, and I'd like to think I'd to the same to someone else. Sadly, I also think you've got to be a bit wary, though, as there's dodgy folk out there.

    For the record, I live in a medium sized city in the UK.
  7. dartzorichalcos macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2007
    I would help him by taking him to a hospital and taking him anywhere he wants to go. Maybe his relatives or something.
  8. MultiM macrumors 6502


    May 9, 2006
    TO. I've moved!
    Certainly, I would help. It wouldn't be the first time, and I'm sure it wouldn't be the last...
  9. Applespider macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    I'd ask if he was OK and call an ambulance and/or the police if he needed one - just like I'd hope if I was in that situation, someone would do it for me.

    I've done this a couple of times. On one occasion, a homeless guy on the Strand was having an epileptic fit but had seriously cut his head open when he fell. I called for an ambulance but by the time they answered, he'd recovered and wandered off. I did still hang on the line though to tell them that the emergency had ended since I recall hearing once that they have to send someone out just in case the person has inadvertently cut themselves off.
  10. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    I would talk to him to find out what he needed and make my assessment from there. If there's supposed to be money involved/a ride needed/netfarious activities, I'm out. Otherwise.. I'd probably help him.
  11. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Where I live, this is a trick question. Nobody walks in Los Angeles!

    I can see both sides of the "help or not help?" issue. It's my nature to be helpful but also to be cautious. So I'll have to wait and tell you how it works out if this situation actually happens to me.
  12. xsedrinam macrumors 601


    Oct 21, 2004
    So, the correct answer would be? Only if he had an axe and a six pack of Bud Light.
  13. mlw1235 macrumors 6502

    Jul 16, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I have to answer this sort of question everyday....Do I help the guy on the street?

    I go to Marquette in Milwaukee, WI and for those of you who don't know, Marquette is known for having students are big into service, but also come from well-off backgrounds. (Not everyone is, of course, but many are)

    Well anyway, Marquette has a problem where many of the poor people will try to get to Wisconsin Avenue (where the school is at) and beg for help, because they know that we are naive college students and all that jazz.

    Personally, I have become very desensitized to it. I see it everyday, and I choose not to help because I'm usually running late or whatever. Two exceptions could occur. 1) Someone is looking for spare change and I happen to have some in my pocket. This rarely happens. 2) Someone looks like they are in dire need of help, and its someone I don't usually see everyday. (There are a few who never go away)
  14. TequilaBoobs macrumors 6502a


    Nov 12, 2006
    i think people here are quick to assume the best intentions in them, however, in psychology there is something called the bystander effect. basically in a nutshell, if there are more than two people in the vicinity of the person in need of help, the tendency is to keep walking because people assume someone else will help.

    a sad example of this is the kitty genovese case in queens, ny. she was stabbed outside her building late one night, and despite screaming and moaning for some time, no one helped her. people in the building definitely heard her, but thought other people would help her. well, the attacker left, then came back to finish her off. she died that night, ostensibly from the bystander effect. :(
  15. calculus Guest


    Dec 12, 2005
    I did once help a guy who was lying on the pavement in a 'tired and emotional' state to get on his feet. I walked him across the road to a taxi and persuaded the driver to take him home.
  16. Applespider macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    Not everyone does that though I guess it does depend on the neighbourhood. On the one occasion where I've had to scream for help outside my flat, 6 different neighbours came out to help
  17. thedude110 macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    This seems reasonable to me -- I mean, my immediate reaction is "of course I'd help," but what gets me about Q's hypothetical is that there's a bunch of other people around and none of them are helping. I can't help but think that this would make me think that this person isn't genuinely in need of help -- surely, if there are many others around, someone would have offered to help before I sauntered by? Can't say that I wouldn't see if I could help, though, as I've done so in similar situations in the past in which everyone else is just walking on by, but only in places I've known well and felt safe.

    Not the same situation in a less urbanized, setting, though. In a setting where no one else is around and one person seems to need help, the obvious thing to do is help. Though I remember a few years back in PA. punk high school kids were pretending to be in need of help alongside a rural road and then ambushing/mugging the good samaritans.

    Jesuits rock.
  18. Osarkon macrumors 68020


    Aug 30, 2006
    Normally I don't because around here the only requests for help you get is money for a 'taxi' or a lighter. :rolleyes:
  19. TequilaBoobs macrumors 6502a


    Nov 12, 2006

    i think now that you grappled with the bystander effect, you will be more prone to help persons in need. overcoming human instincts are hard to do, but if you are conscious of your behaviors, then it's easier to change them.
  20. Leareth macrumors 68000


    Nov 11, 2004
    Because of my level of First Aid Certification I am required to help in medical situations if the person is 60 feet from me.

    Today I saw a guy get really badly beat up by two other men, all of them were obviously junkies and I was not going to get physically involved but I did call for cops and ambulance from my cell, gave my name and left when they arrived. Is that helping? I would say yes. there is no sense in needlessly endangering myself.

    I would help a person lying on the sidewalk. Sometimes all they need is a kind word, sometimes medical attention, sometimes a meal. When I used to work on the Downtown Eastside, the organization I worked for would give the volunteers and employees food vouchers that could be used to feed the street people. We were specifically told not to give cash to them only food and clothes/blankets.
  21. Queso Suspended

    Mar 4, 2006
    Another one who's done it here. Happens all the time in central London, so living here sooner or later you'll come across someone in a state.
  22. SkyBell macrumors 604


    Sep 7, 2006
    Texas, unfortunately.
    Being a teenage girl, I have to take just a littttttle more caution with helping unknown people. (for obvious reasons) But if I see someone in distress I will usually help, provided they aren't standing in front of a dark ally. :rolleyes:
  23. spicyapple macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    Is the guy hot?

    Otherwise, I'd be as cautious as Cassie in helping a complete stranger.
  24. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    There a man who begged at a freeway offramp we frequented. He had a hand-written sign, with something like "vet - please help" and had tattered clothes. Maybe he lived off dollars that people handed him out the car window when they stopped at the light, or maybe he walked from there to his luxury SUV and drove home to Beverly Hills. I knew that I didn't know. Since we don't have complete information in these situations, it's a personal decision what to do, not one you can prove has a right or wrong answer.

    Giving assistance or goods always seems better than giving money. It's less likely to be done under false pretenses. I'd rather save the cash for a chartible organization that, despite spending a percentage on its operating overhead, is likely to help someone who definitely needs it.

    The freeway man isn't there any more. Perhaps he's in trouble, perhaps his problems were solved, or perhaps he continues begging at another location. Oddly, I find that I half-miss seeing him.

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