Is Compassion Inherent or Taught?

Are you a compassionate person? I thought I was until I read an article about one man’s observations of human behavior from one city to another.

In the first setting, he and his father come upon a homeless man while walking in the city and observes how people respond to the man’s predicament. Every person who came upon this man pretended as thought he was invisible. Even his own father observed that whatever happened to this man was was unfortunate, adding that “he just needs to sleep it off”.

In the second scenario, the author sees a person carrying a large bag of peanuts fall to the floor and within seconds, 5 people came to help him out. The city in question? Rangoon, Myanmar.

So two cities, but two different reactions. I was quite surprised to find out that a city like Myanmar, where streets were overcrowded and poverty was visible, the willingness to help was immediate, there was no hesitation.

What was so fascinating was that in the study, big cities like Kiev, Bangkok & New York, the likelihood of any person helping someone out was one-third less likely than if the person in question was in Rio de Janeiro, Madrid & Prague, to name a few. The report cited that helpful cities in the US had smaller population sizes, vital economies and slower paces of living.

As someone who has lived in New York City before getting married, I can attest that living in the city is quite fast-paced. As a Manhattanite, I was always in a rush, but in my experience, if someone needed help, I helped him/her. City-dwellers, especially New Yorkers, have a reputation of always being on the go, of not having time to help anyone, but I disagree. If someone really needs help, people will help, regardless of geographical or financial status.

Moving from the city to the suburbs has not changed my capacity to be compassionate. I still help out anyone who needs it and I don’t believe that compassion is only present depending on one’s circumstances. As a mother of a tween, my husband and I try to impart on our daughter the value of service and placing herself in others’ shoes. It is my belief that the time we spend on helping others will always take precedence over where we have to be at that moment, and the result is worth it. That’s my take on this, what’s yours?

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