On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese drove home from work, parked her car, and began to make the short walk to her apartment. All of a sudden she was attacked by Winston Moseley. Winston stabbed her multiple times but stopped when a neighbor yelled from a window, “Let that girl alone!” Winston fled the scene, but nobody came to help Kitty. She tried to get into the building but found herself unable to. Ten minutes later, Winston Moseley returned to the scene to finish his crime. He proceeded to rape and kill Kitty Genovese. Nobody came to help.
This story encouraged psychologists to study the psychological phenomenon named the bystander effect. It is the idea that the presence of other bystanders decreases the likelihood that an individual will stop and help. In the case of Kitty Genovese only one person called out of their window and nobody came to help.
In being used by God to bring about His will into our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, sphere of relationships, and families, we often fall prey to the bystander effect and end up doing everything for ourselves and nothing for God. We think, “He’s God. He doesn’t need to use me.” Or we presume, “John and Jane down the street will do that.” In the process of making up excuses to not follow God and continue living for ourselves, we miss out on the blessing of bringing God’s reality more fully into our reality.
Maybe you know a neighbor who is lonely. Your neighbor needs someone to be her friend. Knowing the situation, you also know that your neighbor has made all the dumb choices and that her loneliness is her own fault. Being a pragmatist, you know that being a friend takes time and can be an inconvenience. But someone needs to be your neighbor’s friend. Who will?
Maybe you go to church outside of the community you live in. You must realize that your church will not have the mission to make a difference in your community. They are called by God to make a difference in their community. That’s why God has put them where they are. But somebody will have to answer that call to serve in your community. Who will?
Maybe you know a teen who needs some attention and help so that they don’t make destructive decisions that will cause long-term damage to their life. Being a realist, you know that you could invest plenty of the time and see no positive results. But somebody has to take this kid aside and mentor him. Who will?
We know all sorts of people that are in need of help. And somebody needs to help them. Who will?
Who will? It’s easy to say that someone else will, but I hope that you will. When God asked, “Who shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah replied, “Here am I! Send me.” May we have the same willingness to do God’s will. God partners with us to bring about His will. If we aren’t willing to surrender and bring His will about, then He will wait. It hurts for Him to wait, but it doesn’t hurt Him. It hurts us. May we learn to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, stop selfishly living for ourselves, and start living for others. By surrendering our lives, we will find ourselves right in the middle of God’s will. We can be a bystander that makes a difference.