We crept outside into the quad with a pair of oddly-obtained crutches, an abandoned AP Euro binder and a trailing uncertainty about what would happen with our experiment.
Sending an “injured” Kevin out to see if anyone would help him as he dropped his belongings all over the floor while walking with crutches, I initially thought it was blatantly obvious that everyone would could to his aid. Yet, as I thought about it, doubts began to seep in; what would happen if the students ignored the incident altogether?
So, leaving my apprehensions to be settled by the behaviors of the students, our mini team of social experimenters set out to find some unsuspecting participants.
My first cause for relief came when a student, accompanied by some friends, patiently held open the heavy door for Kevin as he approached the entrance. Shortly afterward, Kevin dropped his papers, and a single person rose, gathered Kevin’s belongings, and handed them back to him. As we repeated our act around campus, more people spent their time and effort to pick up the scattered pieces of paper. Yet, nearly everyone who helped gave the exact same response: because he’s on crutches, and he dropped his stuff.
Although this might seem only to reveal the tendency of TPHS students to state the obvious, it really is much more than that. The idea of helping someone in need is so rooted in many students’ minds because they understood what he was going through.
Yet, I say many students, because many is not all. During our time in the media center we directed Kevin to drop his binder in an area where one or two students were engaged in schoolwork. As he did so, one of them seated only a few feet away made a motion to get up from his chair, then thought better of it and sat back down.
Kevin struggled for minutes as if he were really injured, and we were both hoping for the same thing: a reaction. But the student’s mind was set. He didn’t budge. Kevin was eventually rescued by a boy who ran down the media center ramp like the holy savior of mankind.
It’s hardly fair to judge the whole school or even the student himself for what he did — I don’t claim to know the inner workings of people’s minds. But still, it’s hardly an excuse. All it takes is a few seconds, and from what I saw I’d say that our school generally gets that. Otherwise, the number of people who helped us wouldn’t have outweighed those who didn’t.
Yet, it’s difficult to tell. Who knows what would have happened if the circumstances had been different, if we used someone other than Kevin, if there had just been other people around? As evident in the student who ignored him, not everyone always feels the inclination to help others.
If I can really assume anything at all from this whole ordeal, it’s that, yes, there are selfish people, but there are selfless ones too. And that’s just the way things are.
I would like to say that I, too, would have immediately stopped and helped an unfortunate stranger in the same position, but I wasn’t so sure.