Where Is the Neighbor Love?
“OH MY God! He stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me! I’m dying! I’m dying!” Thus the young woman, pretty Kitty Genovese, called out for help. But in vain. Later, thirty-eight persons in the well-to-do neighborhood of Kew Gardens in Queens, New York city, admitted to the police that they saw this crime committed but did nothing about it; that is, nothing until it was too late.—New York Times, March 14, 27, 1964.
Just a month later a young man, a mental patient, climbed out on a twelfth-story ledge of a hotel in Albany, New York, intending to commit suicide. For two hours he paced the ledge, smoking cigarettes and debating what to do, at times even leaning over as if preparing to jump. Down below crowds gathered, eventually some 4,000 according to police estimates. Among those watching some shouted: “Jump! Jump! Jump!” Typical delinquent teen-ager talk was also heard: “Aw c’mon, you’re chicken.” “Jump! What’s the matter, ya yellow?” A girl, who could not have been more than ten years old, climbed on a five-foot pedestal, waved her arms and yelled: “I’m gonna jump. I’m gonna jump.” One young woman was heard saying to her escort: “I wish he would jump and get it over with. If he doesn’t hurry up we’ll miss our last bus.” Vainly several city officials and a Catholic bishop tried to lure the young man off the perilous ledge. At last, however, his seven-year-old nephew succeeded in getting him to change his mind and permit himself to be led back to safety by the hand of this child.—New York Times, April 15, 1964.
Why do people act in this way? How could so many persons watch a young woman stabbed to death—the attacker returned several times over a period of thirty-five minutes to stab her again and again—and yet do nothing about it? In fact, there were far more than thirty-eight that witnessed it; thirty-eight admitted witnessing it. Many others who were known to have seen it denied doing so. Clergymen, psychiatrists and social scientists or sociologists discussed the incident and offered various explanations. One sociologist termed the course of those people “non-rational behavior.” But was it nonrational?
The fact is that those persons could give reasons for their failure to act, even though afterward many of them were ashamed for having failed to do something. The most common reason given was that they did not want to get involved. That may be a rational excuse but is it a valid one? Could they not at least immediately have called the police? Neighbor love would have indicated doing at least that much.
In some respects the Albany incident, where teen-agers and others tried unsuccessfully to get the young man to commit suicide, might be said to be an even worse blot on those who talked and acted in such a way. They proved themselves to be potential murderers, for had they succeeded in influencing the young man to commit suicide, his blood would have been upon their shoulders. What causes people to have such a warped outlook on life as to want to experience the thrill of seeing a young man commit suicide? Why do they betray such a lack of neighbor love?
No doubt some of the blame for such a calloused frame of mind must be attributed to the crime and violence that are daily being shown on television and motion-picture screens. When people daily watch such violence they become hardened to it and so welcome seeing it in real life as being even more thrilling. However, it is not as though there were nothing else to watch. There are programs and films that in fact cultivate empathy, understanding and fellow feeling. How much better to fill our minds with such upbuilding things!
Fallen human nature is inherently selfish, but it can be weaned away from thinking only of its own pleasure and advantage by feeding the mind on the right kind of mental food. And no better food along this line is to be found than in the Word of God, the Bible. It stresses neighbor love from Genesis to Revelation, both directly and indirectly, by commands and by examples and illustrations. Thus by recording the murderer Cain’s hypocritical words after having killed his brother—”Am I my brother’s guardian?”—it exposes and condemns his hardheartedness. Likewise the last book of the Bible, in recording the command regarding the water of life, “Let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’” is tacitly preaching neighbor love.—Gen. 4:9; Rev. 22:17.
In particular did Jesus Christ preach neighbor love. He showed that the second-greatest commandment was, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” and gave us the “Golden Rule”: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.” If you were being stabbed, would you want someone to call the police? If you were so disturbed mentally as to want to commit suicide, would you want to be egged on to do it or would you want others to show kindness and concern for your welfare?—Mark 12:31; Luke 6:31.
How pertinent here is Jesus’ illustration of the Good Samaritan! A man had been robbed, beaten and left half dead by the roadside. A priest and a Levite, two persons having status among the Jews, even as did the people in Kew Gardens, ignored the plight of the victim. A despised Samaritan, who in Jesus’ day was discriminated against, even as in many places Negroes today are being discriminated against, then came along and, seeing the plight of the victim, “was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds . . . Then he brought him to an inn and took care of him.” What a fine illustration of showing neighbor love!—Luke 10:30-34.
Jesus also said: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” As opportunity affords, therefore, lend a helping hand in the little things of life, at home, at your place of employment and in your congregation, and then in time of crisis you will respond as you should. Of course, this would include your comforting with the everlasting good news about God’s kingdom those who sigh and cry for the detestable things they see being done.—Luke 16:10; Ezek. 9:4.