Human Nature in the News


There is plenty in the news to depress and exhaust us. That came back to mind this week when video surfaced showing a store clerk collapsing from a heart attack. Two teenage patrons ignored his distress, as reported by ABC News. This occurred in Washington. Finding the store clerk incapacitated, the teens did not reach out to 911, attempt CPR, or help. They chose "instead to step around him to rob the store."  

The store manager was heartbroken by the event. The store clerk received aid when others apparently summoned help. However, he thereafter remained "on life support at an Auburn hospital." The police are seeking the teenagers, and have asked for "the community’s help in identifying the three males seen in the store at the time of the incident." According to Fox13, the teens have now been identified, but "it's unclear what charges, if any, the teenagers will face."

Reading that reminded me of a CNN story in June. This one a little closer to home. This one involved five teenagers in Florida "taunted a drowning man as they recorded his death." The teens were identified, but prosecutors decided not to press charges. Reportedly, the teens "laughed as Jamel Dunn, 31, struggled to stay afloat."  They told him that "he was 'going to die," and he did. 

The phones that could have dialed 911 that day were used instead to record his demise, which the teens uploaded to YouTube. Florida officials noted that "there is no Florida law that requires a person to provide emergency assistance under the facts of this case." The State Attorney spokesperson nevertheless said that "everyone was sickened by the callous disregard for human life." 

But, it is not always bad news in the morning headlines. Fox News reported recently about  a Georgia teen that sprang into action when two co-workers were stabbed, Officials praised him for his "quick thinking after two of his Target co-workers were allegedly stabbed." This young man "noticed that two of his coworkers had been stabbed" and "rushed to their assistance.” He improvised with what he had, fashioning a tourniquet from his shirt for one and applying gauze and pressure on the other. He attended the two until medical help arrived. 

The Palm Beach Post reported a less dramatic, but as inspiring story at a fast food outlet. Two "blind patrons" were assisted by an employee. The gesture made an impression on others, one of whom "shared the story to social media." There was no injury or urgency, just "little things (that) are a big impact on people’s lives." The employee helped these customers, checked on them, valued them. 

In another example from Colorado, "surveillance video from a doorbell camera" captured three kids discovering a wallet in the home's driveway. Though there was $700 in the wallet, and "no one was around," these three "did the right thing anyway and returned the wallet."  The Internet is seemingly not lacking in instances that can inspire and reassure us. 

At times those stories may eventually disappoint us. In 2017 a homeless veteran came across a motorist who had run out of gas. He walked to a station and spent his last $20.00 to buy her fuel, and got her on her way. The Internet was inspired by the story and about $400,000 was donated through a crowd-funding campaign. A great "feel-good" story. 

But last summer the news broke that this veteran had not received all of the money raised. Questions were being asked about where the funds went. Now there is a lawsuit, and talk of criminal charges against the lady that he rescued, the lady that championed his cause on the crowd-finding site, according to CBS News. The motorist and her spouse are accused of spending significant sums "on lavish vacations, a new BMW and more." Authorities have seized records and the BMW. Stories like this have led to "a website called GoFraudMe." It "tracks online donation scams." Officials there note that donors are often called upon to deliver "a quick fix to complex problems." 

It seems that there is no end to the challenges of daily life. We are all presented with situations involving those with whom we share this journey. We see character and contribution, but we also see behavior that ranges from below par to downright despicable. We may wonder how we would react in a situation of danger, would we fight or flee? But, it is truly a sad day when we would step over a heart attack victim to rob his store. It is truly a sad day when the charity of others might be stolen by those whose predicament gave rise to people helping in the first instance. 

It is encouraging to see that some young people not only understand citizenship, but practice it. We hear a great deal of derision for young people today, and it is encouraging to know that for all the negative stories like the heart attack thieves, there is a kid returning a wallet, providing first aid, or just helping someone with daily tasks at the local Wendy's. Perhaps in their selflessness we can all see ourselves as we should hope to be? Maybe we each have a chance each day to do something kind and helpful, if we only remain vigilant and seize the opportunity when we see it?


David Langham is the Florida Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims. He blogs weekly regarding system issues, regulations and decisions. He has published many articles and delivered more than 1,000 professional speeches.



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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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