I am a Malcolm Gladwell fan. My students recently read part of his book The Tipping Point, the chapter on the Power of Context. There is a section in the book where experimenters trick priests into thinking they are late and plant a suffering person on the ground. When the priests think they will be late for an appointment, most of them literally step over the moaning body. I swore that would never be me.
Yesterday, I was tested. I was riding my bike to class, on a tight schedule, and a man was moaning from the sidewalk. He looked like just a raggedy homeless person, but he said, "Miss! Please call the paramedics for me." At first I thought he asked if I could spare a dollar for him, but something made me stop and turn around.
"Please! Call the ambulance for me. Please, god!"
"Are you serious?" But I was already off the bike and digging for my phone. Another lady stopped at this point and saw how long it was taking me to disentangle my phone from my stuff. She called the ambulance and we both waited.
It turns out Ronald is a dialysis patient and has a fluttering heart (his description). He had come from treatment and was just having some sort of episode. Sweating profusely, feeling nauseous, freaking out. He needed to get to the hospital. When the ambulance arrived (driven by his niece, in a strange twist of fate), I stayed just long enough to make sure he was going to be ok and then rushed to class, where being late was certainly not the worst thing that would have happened to me had I not stopped.