In his book Hamlets Blackberry, William Powers tells the story of a friend from a non-English-speaking background who had migrated to the United States. Whenever he asked her how she was, she would inevitably reply “busy, very busy”. Powers thought this was strange, particularly given his friend Maria would often applied a very upbeat time. He soon learned why. Maria was simply copying what Americans sent to each other when asked how they were doing. She thought it was the way you replied politely to enquiries about how you are doing.
An archaeologist once hired some Inca tribesmen to lead him to an archaeological site deep in the mountains. After they had been moving for some time the tribesmen stopped and insisted they would go no further. The archaeologist grew impatient and then angry. But no matter how much he cajoled the tribesmen would not go any further. The all of a sudden the tribesmen changed their attitude. They picked up the gear and set off once more. When the bewildered archaeologist asked why they had stopped and refused to move for so long, the tribesmen answered, “We had been moving too fast and had to wait for our souls to catch up.”
Source: based on a story told in the movie Beyond the Clouds
A number of years back, a young and very successful executive was travelling down a suburban street in his brand new black jaguar. Suddenly a brick was thrown from the sidewalk, thumping into the side of the car.
Brakes slammed! Gears ground into reverse, and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. The driver jumped out, grabbed the kid who had thrown the brick and pushed him up against a parked car. “What was that all about?!” he screamed. “That’s my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money!”
“Please, mister, please …. I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do!” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop!” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”
The mood was transformed in a moment as the young executive realised what had occurred. He lifted the young man into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts. He then watched as the younger brother pushed him down the sidewalk toward their home.
The young exec never did fix the dented side door of his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention.
Nearly 30 years a study was conducted at Princeton University, USA, designed to figure out the conditions under which good people would act for good, or at least be helpful. Two psychologists asked a group of theology students to walk to another building on campus to give a short speech, either about their motives for studying theology or about the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. Meanwhile, the psychologists had arranged for an actor to be stationed on the path between the two buildings, slumped over, coughing and obviously in bad shape. The two experimenters had also led half the students to believe they were late for their speaking appointment, and half that they had ample time.
So, what do you think the responses were? Who was most likely to help: those with the story of the Good Samaritan uppermost in their mind or those thinking about the motives for studying theology? There was a significance difference between groups, but it was not along the lines of speech content. The content of the speech made no difference. About the same number of Good Samaritan speakers and theology motivation students stopped. What did mid make a difference was how rushed the students thought themselves to be. Only 10 percent of those led to believe they were running late stopped to help. Of those told that they had plenty of time, 60 percent stopped to help.