To prepare for an annual medical checkup, I needed to get a blood draw.  I went down to the local clinic and got in line to check in -- 2 people ahead of me.  The little waiting room was crowded with people.

A young man, wearing the local university's colors, burst through the door.  Clearly in a hurry.  Clearly agitated when he saw the line.  When the person at the desk completed her check-in, he jumps past the three of us and DEMANDS the receptionist check him in. 

"I'm sorry sir, but you'll have to wait in line."

Protected by the thick glass, she looks relieved.  The interaction creates a stir in the waiting room as people peak over their books and magazines to gawk at the scene.

"Check me in … NOW!" 

"I'm sorry sir, but your appointment isn't for another 30 minutes.  You'll have to wait."

Frustrated and with a few profanities, he steps away from the desk and turns to walk away, past me.

This is THE moment.  What would you do?

Something in me … moves.

I take a half step out of line and tell the young man,

"Sir, that was rude.  We've all been waiting patiently in line…"

He cuts me off and starts SCREAMING at me.

"YOU ARE THE RUDE ONE!"   More profanities spewed.

I ready myself for whatever may come next.  He brushes past me and storms out the door.  I scan the Waiting Room.  All eyes quickly bury back into their readings, pretending nothing had happened.

My heart, still racing from the confrontation, I imagine the young man bullying his way through life. 

But I'm quickly overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment from the lack of acknowledgement from the people in the room.  They stood by and gave the bully a wide swath. 

What kind of society have we created where we allow bullies to run roughshod over others … and watch in fascination as it happens?  Every day, our news pounds us with fear.  We watch helplessly on our TVs, incapable of reacting.  We've learned how to be …. Bystanders.

Look, I'm not an Avenger, seeking justice in every dark alley of the world.  However, there are times when injustice is delivered at your feet.  It's a test.  A test of your humanity.  Pass the test.  It is your time to respond.


NOTE:  I first learned about the Bystander Effect in my Master's degree in Organization CommunicationIf you want to learn more, Darley and Latane (1968) wrote a seminal piece in 1968.


Thank you for Subscribing to our Weekly Broadcast