Focus on Caring: The Spineless Bystander Effect
On July 7, 2014, I wrote an article Spineless inaction: the bystander effect, an article that told the story of a female McDonald’s restaurant employee who was severely beaten by another woman. No one called 911, no one tried to intervene, but everyone within a block of the beating took cell phone video of the attack. That, my friends, is an example of spineless inaction.
I’m going to counter that horrific example with a rewarding one out of Buffalo, New York.
Darnell Barton, a bus driver in Buffalo, New York, was on his multi-trip route over a bridge on the expressway. Ahead of him, he could see a woman standing over the railing on the ledge; the intent of this woman was obvious to anyone who observed her. The entire episode was caught on the bus dashboard camera. Read the rest of this entry »
Focus on Caring: Boundaries that constrain us
How are you defined? What kind of box would you fit into? Here are a few characteristics some might assign to me:
- White American
- Baby Boomer
- Pacific Northwest resident
- Sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend
- Seattle Seahawks super fan
All items on that list are correct but if that’s all that people see about me, they’ve greatly reduced the trueness of who I am because my box also contains the following:
- spiritual but definitely not religious person
- free-thinker (is that redundant?)
- writer of things that matter to me
- advocate of the elderly and just about everyone else who crosses my path in life
Setting boundaries between who I am, and who you are, benefits no one.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. spoke at a TEDx event in February of this year. His 20 minute talk, The Boundaries We Choose, is readily available on YouTube so I strongly suggest you seek it out. He suggests, “Our labels shouldn’t define who we are and place us in a strict box.” He then spoke of labels one might put in his box: African American, Christian, Husband, Father, Fan of the LA Lakers. If you’ve read any of Mr. Pitts’ literary pieces in the Miami Herald or any of his books, you already know that he is more than the contents his box may imply. (To be sure, there is a very valid reason why he was named the 2004 Pulitzer Price Winner for Commentary.)
During his February TEDx talk, he provided a fabulous story that illustrates the downside of labels or identifying markers. I’ll let you discover that beautiful and clarifying story by watching his TEDx video, but for the purposes of this blog posting, I will provide you with one of his statements from that video.
Our bonds are more than connecting with certain markers that define people.
Examine, if you will, your way of describing something that happened to you during the course of your day.
When you relay a story about a person taking his or her time in line at the Starbucks store, holding everyone up for far too long a time, do you define the person this way?
This Asian woman in front of me acted like she owned the damn place. She was so selfish, taking her damn time ordering her fancy drink when all I wanted was a damn cup of brewed coffee.
Or did you simply say
This damn person in front of me took so much time ordering a fancy damn cup of coffee that I just about ran out of time to get my plain and simple cup of brewed coffee.
The world as we know it – the good, the bad, the ugly.
In a recent NY Times post, Catherine Rampell writes about how the economy is affecting Baby Boomers; more specifically that it’s not just a matter of postponing retirement, it’s the need to hold down more than one job to meet the daily – and future – essentials of their lives. Ms. Rampell is quick to point out, however, “(I)n the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to have been most injured.” Certainly that seems to be the case as I have heard that Generation X and the Millennials have complained that Baby Boomers are to blame for the state of the economy – present and future.
Of this I am certain – each generation before us, and every generation after us, will contribute positively and negatively to the world as we know it. I have to believe that every generation has pointed their fingers at generations other than theirs, and talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly that permeates their times. Let’s look at those generations as posted on CNN, American Generations Through the Years: (figures and personalities provided by the Pew Research Center and CNN)
G.I./Greatest Generation: Pre-1928; Kate Hepburn and George H. W. Bush
Silent Generation: 1925 – 1945; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tina Turner
Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964; Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan
Generation X: 1965-1980; Jay-Z and Tiger Woods
Millennials: Post 1980; Christina Aguilera and Mark Zuckerberg
We’re all struggling in some way, and we’ll continue to struggle as we mimic the overall consensus felt through all generations. There are carefree times, and then there are all the rest of our days, and we get through them, because we must. We’re better for it, but it doesn’t feel like that while we’re going through it. I have to look to Brendan Marrocco, a twenty-six year old Iraq war veteran who lost all his limbs because of a roadside bomb in 2009. In an Associated Press story, in the Seattle Times, Brendan said he could get by without his legs, but he didn’t like living without arms. “Not having arms takes so much away from you. Even your personality … You talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands, and when you don’t have that, you’re kind of lost for a while.”
The end of January 2013, six weeks after getting a double arm transplant, Brendan said the following at a coming-out press conference about how he’s made it thus far:
Just not to give up hope. You know, life always gets better, and you’re still alive. And be stubborn. There’s a lot of people who will say you can’t do something. Just be stubborn and do it anyway.
Sobering words, and ones that force us to reassess our current situations. I’m not trying to minimize what you might be going through, nor of what’s going on in my life. It’s just that I personally can’t help but focus on Brendan’s plight and then consciously turn my eyes away from my me-ness, and towards other-people-ness. Is Brendan worse off as a Millennial who lost so much but gained a huge dose of intestinal fortitude, defined as strength of character; perseverance? If it were me, I would be wallowing in a very deep pit of self-pity. That doesn’t seem to be Brendan’s current location.