Let me tell you a true story.
A father goes back to Utah where he grew up to show his three year old daughter the beauty of the high desert. As they are driving, the car breaks down. He goes to call a tow truck but his cell phone has no signal. He’s worried, but is hopeful someone would stop – after all they are in the middle of mormon country where people are famously friendly and the road is far from deserted with a car every 1-5 minutes.
He tries to flag down a car for an hour to get help. Lots of people slow down and look… but then they see a brown man and keep going. No one stops.
His little girl is getting thirsty. It’s a hundred degrees and they have already drunk all their water – he had intended to get more down the road. He is getting worried, but what can he actually do? They are far too far out in the country to walk, and would have to abandon their car to do so. He continues to try to flag down a car. The car battery dies, there is no AC.
Another hour of steady traffic with a car every few minutes, and another hour of nobody stopping.
He thinks maybe it’s because they’re Filipino. Maybe it’s because no one recognizes them because they’re not part of the local Ward. Maybe the people passing by are busy and on their way somewhere and assume that in the age of cellphones he’s already called for help or that someone else will stop. If so, they are wrong. No one is stopping.
Another hour passes, then another, and another.
They’ve been stranded on the road for 5 hours. Hundreds of cars have driven by. Hundreds of people have seen him waving and begging for help in the hundred degree desert heat, his little girl by his side. No one has decided to play the role of a good samaritan. No one has stopped. No one will help.
He’s getting desperate.
There’s a hill in the distance down the road. Maybe he can get a phone signal from the hill? He doesn’t want to abandon the car, but at this point has no choice – his little girl is fading fast. So he picks her up and walks down the road as cars continue to drive by, each refusing to stop to help a stranger.
He reaches the top of the hill. There’s still no signal. His daughter has gone limp and is barely responding. And still, no one stops, no one will help.
He carries her back to the car and lays her in the shade of some bushes by the side of the road. She passes out.
Another hour and a half pass with cars passing every five minutes, seeing a person in need, and refusing to help.
Finally a highway patrol car stops and calls an ambulance. The little girl’s life is saved by medical science and a doctor who gives her an IV to rehydrate her. The worst does not happen… but her father knows that in another hour it would have.
This story could have had a much worse ending.
I don’t want to pick on Mormons here. I was raised mormon. There are a lot of people who I love very much who are mormon. People who I want to believe would have stopped. I am certain my brother, who served his mission in the Philippines, would have stopped. And let’s be honest, this story could have happened anywhere – it’s hardly unique to Utah or mormon country.
Even so, on this particular day in Utah in the heart of mormon country, a father stood on the side of the road in hundred degree heat begging for help for six and a half hours; and no one helped him. Hundreds of people driving by saw a brown man and a little girl in distress and refused to help someone who every tenant of their faith told them is a child of god. Refused to show the basic human compassion that is the core tenant of every faith and of atheist humanism alike. On this day in Utah, hundreds of people did nothing as a little girl almost died.
It’s easy to look at news populated by an endless parade of horrors and feel helpless. It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing an individual person can do to make the world better. But there is. There absolutely is.
You can be the person who stops.
Please, I am begging you – be the person who stops. Our world is too small for us to not help each other.
And yes, this really is a true story. Here’s the father’s first-hand account on reddit: