In 1964, a woman was brutally raped and stabbed in Queens, New York. Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman was coming home from work when she was violently assaulted.
The assailant stabbed her repeatedly. When police found her body, they noticed multiple stab wounds in her hands; proof she tried to defend herself using nothing but her own hands.
She was stabbed, raped, and left for dead.
Her violent screams carrying far into the city streets, it’s been documented that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack.
Kitty was murdered.
Often, when people hear this story, there’s a sense of selective outrage at the event. After all, how could nobody – especially out of 38 witnesses – stop to help?
I’d like to point something out in this example; Kitty screamed for help in one of the most populated cities in the world. Yet, nobody came to help. What’s the lesson here?
The people who need help have learned to stop screaming for it. Nobody comes. Nobody cares.
I use the term “nobody” because it tends to be the 1% of people who stop to help others. When you’re living in a world where 99% of people don’t even look you in the eye, it makes sense to use a bucket of judgement to assume that nobody cares.
I think it’s really easy to look back at a situation like Kitty and think you would have made a difference to stop the attack/rape. However, there are thousands of Kitty’s all over the world.
Instead of screaming for help, these people carry mugs, cardboard signs, and wander the streets at night with no place to rest their head.
After nearly two years of working with the homeless, I’ve had many people stop to ask me “should I give money to the homeless?”
Often, I find that people look at the homeless and withhold giving them money, for fear the money will be used for drugs, alcohol, or other vice. In this case, I’d like to recall a verse from the bible that says:
“When you do good – don’t let your right hand know what the left is doing.”
Thus – give. When the money leaves your hand, it’s no longer yours to watch over – or have a concern about what will happen to it.
The crux of this argument lies in one simple fact:
You don’t know what people will do with money you give them.
You don’t know the future.
You don’t know what will happen tomorrow – or the day after.
What if somebody treated you this way? Witholding doing somebody good for you because they were worried you might do something.
What if you got the pink slip this afternoon because your boss was worried you might be using the money for alcohol/drugs/laciviousness? How would that make you feel?
When you withold doing good because you’re worried something ‘bad’ might come from it, it’s really a whitewashed cover-up for the desire to play god over others.
You’re not god…whatever the hell that is.
Withholding giving time, money, or conversation to somebody because you’re worried they might use it for drug money sounds a whole lot like playing god – or making a miserable attempt at doing so.
Often, people choose not to give in the moment, and look back to a prior moment where they helped somebody to make them feel better about choosing not to help the person in front of them. This doesn’t help the person in immediate need.
Additionally, I’ve met dozens of people who’ve told me they choose not to give money and instead ‘help’ in other ways. How? A day or two of volunteering every year. Giving Tuesday. Community clothing drive. Giving clothing to the thrift stores —- so they can be sold for a profit.
Frankly, that’s not cutting it, and I’m not afraid to say it.
There are people dying on the streets every single day and one or two days of volunteering a year doesn’t provide lasting impact for people who need help the most.
Put yourself in the shoes (or lack thereof) in somebody else – try to see the world through their eyes, and your world will change.
If you were down on your luck, would you pray for people to help through these annual gestures of ‘good’? Probably not. The shelter is packed with volunteers during the holiday season – and left short-staffed during the rest of the year.
People need more help than they’re getting.
Whenever I struggle to find motivation, I go through the “Could you? Would you? When?” exercise to move past my objections.
Could you do something to help others, every single day?
Would you help others, every single day?
When would you start?
“If it’s in your power to do good – do it.”
Are there a lot of drug addictions in the street?
Is it our place to judge?
I share the story of Kitty to stir up some sense of outrage in whomever takes the time to read this blog. It should make you upset to read these stories.
However, I’d like to encourage you to channel this sense of anger into a productive change for good.
The next time you see somebody in need, please try to hear their screams. There’s a good chance the person no longer has a voice to give them – or ask for help.
What our world needs most is a firehose of time, love, money, and generosity given from everybody. Not an organization. Not a government. Not a special interest group. Not a corporate outreach day to maximize tax dollars.
You. Me. Us.