While searching on YouTube for videos to help alleviate boredom during study breaks for exams, I came across a series titled "What would you do?"
This TV show creates scenarios of conflict with actors playing the main roles while in the public. However, the main purpose of the show is to see how bystanders react to the situations that are occurring before their eyes. These encompass a wide variety of controversial subjects, spanning from illegal immigration, stereotyping and bullying of certain races and those with diseases, such as Down syndrome and Autism.
One of the most touching moments, however, occurred when a man, dressed in his army uniform, came into a diner to order a sandwich. However, the man in front of him, an actor, began to throw slur words and exhibit heavy prejudice towards another actor, a Muslim man working as a cashier.
As I watched the video, I noticed the awkward and uncomfortable silence between all the customers in the shop as more insults were hurled towards him. No one was doing anything, even though their faces showed how wrong they thought it was, too. The soldier, however, took action. In a powerful rebuttal to the man's refusal to being served by a Muslim, he stated that he "has a choice to shop anywhere, just like he has a choice to practice his religion anywhere. That's the reason I wear the uniform, so anyone can live free in this country." When asked afterwards if his actions were heroic, the soldier replied, "Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. That wasn't heroic at all. I was just being a person."
Hearing such sincere and strong-willed words made me feel very empathetic. After all, I've lived with people from many different backgrounds, and I agree completely with what he said. We are all people – why do we have to focus so much on our differences when we have so much in common?
However, it goes further than that. It shows that each and every one of us can do the right thing and stand up for what we believe in. In our society today, we laud those who illustrate such upstanding bravery and knightly-qualities.
The problem, though, is that it seems we're too quick to show how amazing these other people are without actually improving our own ability to stand up not just for others but for ourselves and what we believe in. Though there are many other good bystanders who helped out the man at the register and many other actors in other difficult situations, in many of the scenarios of the TV show people usually watched from afar, showing pity but not taking action. This apathy towards injustices is baffling. Worse still, some onlookers took the side of the antagonists in the scenarios.
The reason for people's lack of action? It's none of my business.
Everything in this world is interlocked, blanketed by invisible chains that attach each person, strangers or family, to each other.
That abusive situation where you saw a mother abusing her kids, or a mother being abused by her kids will inevitably come back to bite someone, if not you. That man who was denied service because of his race while you turned away too embarrassed to do anything – it will come back to haunt you.
It tears at my heart to see people bear such painful injustices, be it racism, ageism or due to disabilities. In my mind, that one simple act of standing up for others shows that a person feels cared for, and that even a complete stranger acknowledges his or her existence – believe me, you will not be forgotten for helping them in that time of need.
I have found myself at the lowest points of my life, when it seems that world is rallying to pound you down into the dust from whence you came, but thanks to the help of friends and strangers, I've come back stronger and more thankful for what I have today. When you help someone, you help yourself. Just one act can quickly become a chain reaction of hope and care for many others down the line and in the future.
If you see someone who needs help, extend a helping hand. Life is too short for people to feel abandoned and left alone. In doing so, you'll have saved someone's life and possibly yours too.
Jan Urbano is senior in biological sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.