Samaritans in shorter supply lately

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, October 7, 2012

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think people are as helpful as they once were.

     I was thinking about that the other day while I was following a vehicle on my way from a friend’s house in Richland to Interstate 55 at Byram. It’s not necessarily a hard route, but it can be a little tricky, especially at night.

     The car in front of me had a Louisiana license plate and I had a suspicion the driver wasn’t quite sure where he was going. I couldn’t think of any way to help them make sure they were on the right path, so I just settled in and followed along until we reached the interstate.

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     I started contemplating other travel-related times when people can’t – or don’t – offer assistance when possible. It’s really more don’t than can’t.

     My conclusion was people avoiding to offer help is indicative of the times we live in these days. Some avoid it because of lessons learned from advances in technology and many don’t offer help out of a concern for personal safety.

     When was the last time you reminded someone they left their car’s headlights on?

     Did you get that snooty, “They turn off on their own,” response?

     Many, but still not all, automobiles do have that helpful feature. In most cases, there’s no way to know which ones do and which ones don’t.

     Honestly, I don’t notice too many automobile headlights being left on these days. But to avoid the unappreciative answer, I just assume they’ll “turn off on their own.”

     During his “Here’s your sign” bit, comedian Bill Engvall tells a joke about his car breaking down on the side of the road and a guy stopping to offer help.

     “Car break down?” Engvall quotes the guy as saying.

      “‘Nah, car wanted a cigarette, so I pulled over!’ Here’s your sign!,” Engvall replies.

     This is one of the reasons Engvall has always been my least favorite of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour guys.

     Engvall’s broken-down car situation is relatable to the audience because many have been in that predicament. His response, though, is one of a smart aleck.

     Yes, I know it’s a comedy routine and supposed to be funny. But I really don’t see the humor in mocking someone who’s just trying to help.

     On a related note, I believe more drivers are passing by stranded motorists these days out of safety concerns.

     In yesteryear, stopping to help someone change a flat tire or something like that was rather typical. You know, the Good Samaritan thing.

     But after reports of roadside muggings, kidnappings or worse became more commonplace, I think people are just too cautious to stop. After all, there’s still law enforcement and roadside assistance services available, right?

     Now let’s talk about the roadside occurrence that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

     It’s odd – if that’s the right word – how the radio channel has to be changed, the text message read, or some other distraction gets our attention whenever we see the veteran, homeless person or (insert some other down-and-out soul here) with a sign asking for help on the roadside.

     Truly, I appreciate anyone’s willingness to humble themselves and do whatever they have to to provide food for themselves and their families. And to be honest, I’m extremely grateful I’ve never had to find myself in that position.

     Again, though, how do you know what’s legitimate and what could be just another way for someone to get money?

     I’m not saying it’s right, but I know I’m not alone in being cynical. So we enjoy our distraction or if we just have to, pass a dollar out the window to the person we believe in need.

     I hope I’m not sounding too negative or critical of anyone’s habits toward helping others. It’s just an unfortunate commentary on the times in which we live.

     That’s all for now.

     Write to Managing Editor Matthew Coleman at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, or send e-mail to