Would you risk your life to save a stranger, having no time to choose?

A GIF I just saw reminded me of something so I’ll ask a question…

You’re in your early twenties on the way to work, which is a train ride and then a walk because the building is between two stations. Right before the building you cross the line. You’re preoccupied, your mind wondering and just before you cross, there’s this old woman, a homeless person perhaps… what people used to call a “bag lady” – she’s wandering around walking slowly in front of you and you start to get annoyed; then she stops. And she lays herself stomach down on the track, as you walk past her. She looks up and makes eye contact with you for a moment.

Then you see it. The train is coming. You only have a half a second, maybe more, it’s hard to tell. She looks weary, sad, lost, but it’s all too much to take in. She also looks heavy, and she’s laying down with all her weight, determined to die.

What do you do?

I turned and carried on walking. I couldn’t save her, in that split second I chose not to. But I regretted it, even though there wasn’t enough time to think. I heard the awful sound of the train going over her. I was only meters away but I walked on, never looking back, despite the others, people I hadn’t noticed who were ahead of me… all turning back to go look.

I think in the same situation now, more than twenty years later, I’d try to save her. But still… I don’t know. What would you do?

I just copied that word for word after sharing it on Facebook. No reactions yet because it was right now. Here’s the status.

2 thoughts on “Would you risk your life to save a stranger, having no time to choose?

  1. No, please do not risk your life for a determined suicide.
    That’s their business, not yours. Your brain did its job well in that instance.
    However, we as individuals do NOT perform our worldly actions as rational actors. Who knows what complex etiology underlies any of our actions? Whatever we tell ourselves motivates us for any particular action could be a stew of lies and errant suppositions.
    If free will is just another of our necessary illusions, what is the point of any what-ifs? You can tell yourself you might me Mahatma II come back to life in the next homeless person suicide in front of you, but your emotional response could be totally outside your humanitarian intentions.
    Sure, some talk beforehand might orient our brains one way or another, but the tendencies are certainly never completely governable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, same thing when somebody puts a gun in your face. Can think it through all you want, but you never know how you will act in the moment. I still think of that woman sometimes though… wondering if I could have saved her. Probably not as there wasn’t enough time, but I really didn’t think about it at the time. I just acted and my reaction was to get away from her as fast as I could.


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