hard life redCompassion is an interesting phenomenon.  I read an article that ran in Scientific American in 2012 titled “How Wealth Reduces Compassion” and there were certain aspects of it that I found intriguing.  There wasn’t any conclusion as to why this was so, but in at least five different studies using different means of observing behavior, a significant number of those with higher socioeconomic status exhibited less-than compassionate actions toward those in lesser socioeconomic strata.  What does this have to do with emergency response?

When someone who has resources and the ability to use them for benefit happens to meet up with someone who doesn’t have the resources or the ability, there is a steep power gradient that exists. When we roll up on the scene in our uniforms and our huge, fancy, technologically advanced apparatus, it is apparent that we represent power and authority.  The victim, be it a medical victim or someone whose house is burning, is in a position of vulnerability.

There is no reason why treating a victim like a dumbass is going to make things better for you or for them.  I’ll admit, sometimes they are hysterical, sometimes they are significantly impaired, and sometimes they are simply jerks.  But for most of the people we deal with, they asked for help and they need help; there is no reason to look down on them because they called you to help.  I have seen individuals treat homeless patients like trash, or waddle up to an emergency scene and insinuate that the patient’s pain is just “in your head”.  Behavior like this is embarrassing at the least, and unprofessional in every case.

When someone who has power uses it justly and for the good of others, they are a hero.  When you have power and you lord it over others, you are a bully.  Spread compassion.  Look on the vulnerable kindly, act with your heart, and ignore the haters.  I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who said that to the extent that we treated even the least among us, we were doing that to Him.  But if that doesn’t make you think, try taking the perspective of the victim and remember, someday, you too might be in that position, and I’ll bet you would appreciate it if the person who came to help you exhibited at least a little bit of extra compassion.

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