by David Sisler

What is the first response of most people when they see someone who is hurting? Isn't it usually, "I don't want to get involved."

A team of psychologists set out to test an interesting hypothesis: the more people who witness an incident, a tragedy, or an accident, the less likely anyone is to help. They called it diffusion, a scattering of responsibility. The more people who could be responsible, the fewer people who will respond.

To test their idea, they used four groups of children, ages 6 to 10, and of various races. In four cities, New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, the children were stationed on the sidewalks. Each child, with tears in his eyes, would stop a passerby and say, "I am lost. Will you help me find my Mommy?" Then the child would hand the stranger a card with a telephone number to call the parent.

Now, who wouldn't stop to help a lost child? Well, in Chicago, one-third of those approached would not help. The number rose to one-half in New York, and to two-thirds, who would not help a lost child, in Philadelphia and Boston. An average of 46 percent of the people approached would not help.

Then they took the same children into 12 small towns outside of the major metropolitan areas they had just surveyed and set up the same scenario. In those towns 72 percent were willing to help. Only 28 percent refused.

The psychologists proved their point. The more people who could become involved, the fewer who actually will.

Reading that study, I wondered to myself, "How many of those people who refused to help claimed to be Christians?"

One organizations which has had tremendous positive effect on our society is Alcoholics Anonymous. Although some of its members substitute A.A. for the Church, A.A. is not a Church, but the power of A.A. is that one drunk, who has now dried out, can say to another drunk, "I know what it's like. I know how hard it is. I have been there. Because I found the strength to quit, I know you can find the same strength. I know you can dry out, too. I will help."

I asked a man who is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous if it is easy to extend help to another alcoholic. With a smile, he said, "One of the most difficult things is the 'rule' associated with intoxication. If you are drunk, or thinking about getting drunk, you must never call for help before midnight or after six a.m. I am frequently awakened by friends who are teetering on the edge of despair. Yes, it is inconvenient, but if I don't help them, they may break sobriety."

I read about a church that organized its members so they can seek help from someone who has experienced their problems. For instance, an attorney who is considering a divorce will be referred to another attorney in the church who has experienced that same crisis. "I understand what you are experiencing," the counsellor will say, "and if God helped me, He can help you."

A cynic once remarked, "I wish there was a law forcing Christians to all wear bright red hats. That way we would have no trouble identifying them. They talk a good game, but they usually live quite differently from their talk."

Paul told the Galatians, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

John wrote, "As Jesus is, so are we, in this world."

If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ, ask yourself, would Jesus refuse to help a lost child? If He would, then so may you. Would Jesus refuse to reach out to a person attempting to break free of a life-destroying habit? If He would, then so may you. If Jesus would help, and you know He will, then as long as you claim His name--bright red hat, or not--you must help. Because of the grace that saved you, you are under obligation. As He is, so are we, in this world. How is He? Are you that way?


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/5/94

Copyright 1994 by David Sisler

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