– Speaks Volumes About Ourselves.’
It is often difficult with our busy lifestyles, to stop and consider our thoughts and actions towards others. Sometimes it rarely even crosses our minds. There is so much going on, traveling to work, sorting out finances, doing the laundry, cleaning the house. Some of us even have kids that need dropping off at school, and then there’s dinner to prepare, the family dog to walk, homework, updating social media, and all sorts of things that keep us occupied. We barely have enough time to relax as it is, and when we think about ourselves as a person, in general we seem to be OK, perhaps not perfect but we’re certainly not horrible. We may have the odd joke about a person, or sometimes think things that we shouldn’t, but we certainly don’t mean any harm, do we?
I want to give you an example one of my professor’s gave me. You need to read this and answer honestly and automatically. If your answer is ‘yes’ raise your hand, if your answer is ‘no’ don’t raise your hand. (I know this may look a bit odd, raising your hand in front of a computer screen, so you might want to be alone when you do this, but answer automatically, don’t think about it, just answer with your gut.)
Imagine for a minute that you live on a street, in an average home, with an average family, and you have an average income. Not a lot of money, but enough to get by, to put food on the table, to cover bills, and to go on a family holiday every so often. Most of the other houses on the street have families just like yours, all of them, apart from one house. One house is extravagant, larger than all of the rest, it has a large driveway, manicured lawns, a fountain in its foregrounds and a couple of very expensive cars parked in it’s drive. The family that live there are wealthy, they have more bedrooms in their house than they need, and their bedrooms are bigger than the entire floor plan of your ground floor. They go on holidays often, and their children have massive birthday parties, and receive gifts that are more expensive than your average family car.
One day, one of your average neighbors has a problem with their water pipe. It’s burst and flooded their entire downstairs. They’ve had a lot of problems that month that you know about, an expense on a car, a boiler going bust and now this. They ask the people on the street for help.
Do you help? yes or no?
The following week, the wealthy family has a problem with their water pipe. It’s bust and flooded their entire downstairs. They’ve probably had some other problems but you don’t really know anything about them. They ask the people on the street for help…
Do you help? yes or no?
Now answer truthfully, did you hesitate with your second answer? Was there some part of your brain telling you that ‘the wealthy family are rich, they don’t need help?’ Or did you think ‘I don’t have as much as they do, surely they don’t need my help?’
To be totally honest with you, when my professor posed this question to my year group (a class of 60+ students), everyone raised their hand immediately, to help the average neighbor. However, only a handful, after a moment’s hesitation, raised their hand to help the wealthy family. I was amongst one of the few that did raise my hand for the wealthy family, but it wasn’t an automatic response, I hesitated, I had to think about it. It won’t surprise me at all if these results echo for everyone out there, but it’s not about how you answered that matters at this moment, it is why? Why do we feel no hesitation towards others who we perceive as similar, or less fortunate than ourselves, but when it comes to someone who we perceive as more fortunate than ourselves, we hesitate. I’m not saying that everyone will answer this way, there will be some anomalies out there I’m sure, and I only have the results from a class of students to work with, buts let’s say they are accurate, and that they do echo for the rest of the world. My question is, why?
Here are some more examples…
I think most of us have been on the motorway in our car, it’s a a few years old, we bought it second hand and it’s had a couple of issues already but it still runs, it still works. There’s a dent on the side, and it’s a bit noisy on the road, but we can live with it, it’s not a problem. Then we see that one person who zooms by in the third lane, they have an Aston Martin, or a Ferrari, or a Porsche, and it gives us a weird thrill to secretly hope that they get pulled over by the police.
There’s also those times when we’ve been on a plane, we’ve queued up for hours at the airport, gone through all the rig-moral and when we are finally called on to the plane, we have to walk past first class, which is virtually empty apart from a couple of people. Their seats are bigger, more spaced out, have funky little gadgets, but we can’t help but think ‘posh snobs’ or some other variation of those words, as we shake our heads, and even look down at them. But why? Why do we react this way? yes it’s true that not everyone reacts this way, but a lot of people do, and a few years ago, I certainly wasn’t innocent of these types of thoughts. So why? and what changed?
If we take money out of the equation, there is no difference between the wealthy person and the not so wealthy person. They just become people. In reality, the wealthy person has problems too, they may be different from the average person, but they still have problems, bills to pay, appointments to make, and probably businesses to run. You have no idea what a stranger has been through in their life, no matter how they dress, or where they live, or how wealthy they are, and if we are totally honest, most of us don’t even know our neighbors well enough to call them friends. Troubles fall on everyone, problems arise everywhere, and traumatic events can happen to anyone at any time.
By not helping the wealthy person who asked for our help, what does that say about ourselves? We’re willing to help one but not another? Even though without the money that person is just another human being, like you and me. They have emotions, thoughts, their brains are wired like ours, and they have a human skeleton. Their wealth is just a secondary level difference, it can be easily wiped away like wiping lipstick off our faces. We become bias, and unfair, if we treat the wealthy person differently from our average neighbor, but we don’t want to be seen as horrible, because we’re not, are we? We are good people, we are not bias or unfair. We would like to treat those in a way we would also like to be treated, no matter what our secondary differences might be, right?
If you’re like me, and realize that yes, sometimes you can have some mean thoughts, or sometimes you are unwilling to help, but you’re not sure what you can do about it. Well, recognizing and realizing what you think and do is the first step. Next time you have a negative thought about someone because of the way they look, dress, whatever it may be. Try asking yourself in your own mind ‘What is it that’s bothering me?’, ‘What am I really feeling right now?’, ‘And how would I feel if someone else had these thoughts about me?’ Asking yourself these simple questions can help you to clarify what you’re actually feeling, whilst stamping out negative thoughts and emotions as soon as they start to appear. In time, you will hopefully find that you feel much better about the world and life in general, and the next time someone asks for help, you won’t even need to think about it.(That’s not to say that you should just say ‘yes’ to everyone all the time, that wouldn’t be good for your health and not everyone out there is honest about their problems. So be careful please, but also, don’t hold back when you know someone genuinely needs help.) This type of compassion towards others, will be repaid if you are ever in need, not by everyone sadly, no, but a lot of people will remember your compassion and return it with their own, it’s natural.
When your children, family, or friends look at you, what do you want them to see? Do you want them to see someone who cares about every person, no matter who they are. Or do you want them to see someone who only cares about certain people? Our actions and thoughts towards others, speaks volumes about ourselves, i invite you to take a moment to think about this, and to think about the sort of person you want to be.
Thank you for reading.
Note From The Author:
- Please be careful when helping strangers, never go off alone to help someone you do not know.
- Use your common sense when faced with a problem, and never endanger yourself or others.
- Only do what you can, when you can, and don’t feel guilty if you can’t do more.