I came across this article via www.partnersinkindness.org. As a total vomitphobic and someone who'll change train carriages if I see a very drunk person, it stopped and made me think.
Quite a few years ago, I was traveling quite late at night on the London underground. It's not that savory a place at the best of times, but at 11 P.M. it's even worse.
A young woman was vomiting on the platform. She clearly had drunk too much alcohol. Although the other people waiting at the station were giving her disgusted looks, she didn't frighten me, I suppose because I am a nurse. So I took out some paper tissues I had in my bag and gave them to her, so she could clean herself up. It felt like the "right" thing to do, rather than condemning her.
What keeps many people from loving others and doing loving acts for others is simply fear. It's frightening to see people who are not in control of themselves, like drunks or drug addicts. When I remind myself that what is stopping others from helping is fear, I feel more compassion for those who are ignored or scorned.
Something similar happened to me in the streets of London. I was walking to my station when I tripped in the street, sprawling face down on the pavement. Not one of the people who passed by stopped to help me, they saw it, and rushed on.
It hurt then and as I write this it still hurts, that there is so little caring. But I have to remind myself that it is fear which gets in the way, not evil. What helped me in London was being able to imagine two women I had just left (with hugs) coming to help me and hugging me.
Editors note: Scientific research has confirmed that fear stops people from helping. See the studies of Jane Piliavin on the Subways in New York City and Philadelphia.