No really: What Would You Do?

What would you do

“What would you do?” appears to be a popular question. When you enter the phrase in the Google search engine, over 917 million results are listed.

At the top of the list is the site www.abcnews.go.com/whatwouldyoudo. This link directs folks to the ABC series, “What Would You Do?” The 9 p.m. Friday evening program is both an in-depth study of ethics and human nature, and an intriguing look at how ordinary people react when confronted with societal issues like sexual harassment, theft, bullying, domestic violence, racism, hazing, etc.

This is not a new question for journalists to consider. In the early 1950s, aspiring writer Jacqueline Lee Bouvier authored a column for the Times-Herald in Washington. In an indirect way, young Jackie sometimes asked her readers, “What Would You Do?” Jackie and John Kennedy

For example, one specific piece questioned, “Would you rescue a great artist who is a scoundrel, or a commonplace, honest family man?” Later, this budding journalist would become Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, our nation’s First Lady. It is Jackie’s question about human responsibility posed back then, that apparently still interests TV viewers today. For instance, in some episodes of the ABC show viewers are asked, “What would you do?” if you saw two lifeguards getting drunk in the middle of their shift? Or what about intervening, if you observed a man slipping a drug into his date’s drink? Would you react in the same way, if his date was dressed seductively? What would you do about a baby locked in a hot car?

According to an Associated Press article titled, “TV show uses hidden cameras to expose attitudes” by TV writer David Bauder, the show’s producer Chris Whipple got the idea for the series from “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. “There was an immediate response in the ratings after Primetime carried the first segment in 2004 with an actor portraying a babysitter verbally abusing a boy in a park,” according to Bauder. Five hour-long segments were produced in 2008 anchored by veteran broadcaster John Quinones, who originally joined ABC News in 1982. The program quickly soared in the ratings, and devoted fans continue to watch.

In the nineties, Nickelodeon had their own version of “What Would You Do?” While, other viewers might find the ABC series similar to the comedic TV show, “Candid Camera,” but its content is not as amusing, as it is revealing. Although there are some humorous moments and less serious subjects featured in ABC’s “What Would You Do?” For example, one classic show featured two wedding crashers, who were at times engaging, and at other times, blatantly rude, resulting in some pretty good laughs.

But it is not the chuckles that impress me. It is observing human nature at its very best when a heroic soul intervenes on behalf of a stranger facing some kind of injustice. It is also observing humanity at its worst, because onlookers often turn their apathetic heads away, and allow individuals being mistreated to suffer alone. Besides, when people react on hidden camera, they have no idea anyone is watching.

One standard of commonsense ethics can be found in the universal acceptance of the Bible’s Golden Rule which states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV) Similarly, in a spiritual sense, the show is reminiscent of the timeless classic by Charles Sheldon, In His Steps: What would Jesus do? Written in 1896, the allegorical work is one of the best-selling books of all time.

In His Steps - Barbour books edition

In His Steps – Barbour books edition

Wikipedia explains that in Sheldon’s book, “…many of the novel’s characters [are] asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’ when faced with decisions of some importance.” Sheldon lived in the pages of his own book, confronting poverty, educational disparity, and racism first hand.

In the 1990’s, the motto, “WWJD?” became a popular phrase in our country adorning bracelets and bumper stickers everywhere. After all, people need a role model for the behavior that they embrace when confronted with an unfair circumstance.

As for the ABC show, I’ll bet Jesus would have had something to say about the episode where a blind woman was unjustly shortchanged by a bakery cashier. Yet I’m not sure He would have loudly and repeatedly told the obnoxious clerk to “shut up” like an intervening male customer did. Still, in his own way, the righteously indignant man really was a knight in shining armor trying to assist a vision-impaired damsel in distress. But the real question is not what he did, but, “What would you do?”

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her at www.christinaryanclaypool.com     

 

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How not to Help a Thief

Would you like to help someone rip you view detailsoff? If not, you might want to keep reading. To explain, about a decade ago, I was employed as a TV producer/reporter for a daily magazine show in west central Ohio. One of my jobs was to create, “How To,” segments for the program. I have to admit these vignettes weren’t worthy of much professional acclaim, but I hope they helped folks with their daily dilemmas.

You know, “tough” questions like, “How do you get spaghetti sauce out of a favorite blouse?” Or, “How to avoid burning up your kitchen pans when you cook dinner.” Admittedly, most of the features I produced concerned areas where I had my own practical problems. Therefore, I went in search of experts who could answer my questions.

If I were still producing these TV packages, I think a few local individuals could provide material for a, “How to help a thief,” feature. For example, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen some potentially dangerous scenarios that could invite the attention of an unscrupulous crook. But then have you ever met a robber with any scruples?

First, while driving in my neighborhood the other day, I saw a huge cardboard box that had contained a new TV at the curb, fully assembled and waiting for trash collection. Then while parking in a public lot, I spied an empty automobile with a tempting purse and cell phone in visible sight.

That’s when I decided to ask Sheriff John Lenhart for some advice on how to keep ourselves and our possessions safe. The Ohio Shelby County sheriff says that robberies statistically increase with warmer weather simply because it’s “easier [for criminals] to move around.”

According to the law enforcement official who is currently serving his sixth term, there are, “Three parts to a crime including: 1) the intent of the individual, 2) the opportunity which you give those persons, and 3) the skill level” [of the perpetrator.]

When it comes to opportunity, “We allow ourselves to be vulnerable,” he said. Referring to my above examples, Sheriff Lenhart cautioned that it is not wise to leave “valuable items in eyesight,” in a car. In addition, when discarding an electronics box, you should “turn it inside out.” If not, he says, “That’s almost like a billboard, advertising that you’ve got something new.”

He also encouraged residents to alert neighbors or law enforcement agencies if they are going on vacation and leaving their homes vacant. “If the newspapers pile up, the trash sits out and nobody picks it up, [it becomes] pretty obvious nobody’s home,” said the seasoned sheriff.

Warning folks that today’s crime also involves stealing personal information is important to Sheriff Lenhart. “We live in a pretty technical world…check your credit accounts, keep track of receipts, and watch your debit card transfers,” he urged. “Keep a mindful eye that there are a lot of people out there…trying to take advantage of us.”

When it comes to a scam, the sheriff reminds people of the famous saying, “If it is too good to be true, it’s probably not true” Like the phone caller who reports, “Gee, you’ve won the Mexican lottery.” Some unsuspecting victims have fallen for the scam, even though they’ve never played the lottery.

Sheriff Lenhart has a special concern for the vulnerability of senior citizens who can be taken advantage of by unprincipled business people. “Do not do business with people you don’t know,” he said emphatically.

“We just had two persons pay substantial money…who had pavement put down on their driveways…. [the pavers] had put shoddy work down and [used] lousy material,” said the county officer. Sadly, the residents wrote checks for the work, making financial recovery difficult. The sheriff advises seniors to call the Better Business Bureau, a neighbor, or an adult child to ask advice about utilizing specific businesses for services. Scam artists rely on individuals agreeing to their terms without getting input from outside sources.

It would be wonderful if the world were filled with only trustworthy individuals. But Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, and there are real life criminals. As responsible consumers, we have to take our rose-tinted glasses off, and protect ourselves from loss. In closing, the Sheriff advises, “A lot of time, [with] these scams everything has to be done in a real hurry…slow the whole process down, so you can check them out…”

Parting advice from the road less traveled, just like the sheriff said, “slow the whole process down,” by turning the stove’s heat down to make your pans last longer to avoid burning them, also. As for the spaghetti sauce, treating the stain with a little Dawn or Palmolive dishwashing detergent prior to washing should do the trick. Sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing my hard-earned knowledge. Until next time….stay safe.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning journalist and Christian speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column was originally published in the Sidney Daily News on June 6, 2012. 

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