dollar, a stranger on the street will give it to you 35% of the time; if
you ask nicely, saying, "My wallet was stolen," 75% will give (Latane'
& Darley, 1970). About 85% of American households give (an average
of $200) to charity. Even a majority of blood donors, say 60% to 65%,
volunteered to give bone marrow when the procedure and needy cases
were carefully described. Being a bone marrow donor is no simple
matter. It involves staying overnight in the hospital, getting an
anesthesia, cutting into your bone, digging out the marrow, and
recovery! In the right situation many people are very giving. You and I
can be too.
There is evidence that personally helping someone makes
people feel good--calm, less stressed, and self-satisfied, something
like a "runner's high." These benefits from helping others don't occur
when you merely give money, pay taxes, help without having close
personal contact, or feel compelled to help (Luks, 1988). 97% say
they want to help but less than half of us do. If an abandoned child
were left on our door step, we would help--and love doing it. Why
should it make any difference if the needy child is at our door or
10,000 miles away? It would be weird if our morals told us to only help
people in our family, our community, our ethnic-religious group, our
country, our race, etc.
There is a simple, easy place for you to start: DO SOMETHING!
Just realize that making the world a better place requires a community
effort--probably a world-wide effort--and each of us is partly
responsible for the world and almost totally responsible for our own
behavior. What can you do?
There are personal traits to be developed further: (a)
confidence, (b) independence from friends, (c) keen awareness
of others' needs and of our own emotions and self-
centeredness, (d) empathy for others, (e) self-esteem and the
courage to offer your help, etc. These traits lead to altruism.
Insecurity leads to distrust and dislike of others.
There is endless knowledge each person needs to know: (a) the
steps in helping, (b) how to handle many kinds of crises, (c)
how to gain the self-control necessary to carry out our own
lofty ideals, (d) exactly where and how to offer help, etc.
Knowledge gives us more ability to do good.
There is a need to create an environment (a) that models and
rewards caring, (b) that discourages prejudice and hostile
competitiveness or even isolation and overlooking the needs of
others, (c) that provides ways of helping that do not offend or
discourage the person being helped, etc. Any society that
makes it difficult or unpleasant to give to others is surely in
deep trouble; for instance, in this country we hate to pay taxes
although taxes are our principle way of helping others outside
the family. This anti-helping (taxes) attitude is a major problem
but it goes largely unrecognized. In the last few years,
however, schools have started to emphasize community service
again (something like the Peace Corps ideas). Thousands of