Then I realized, "Perfect hacker news." Let me explain...
I try to approach my business just as the Mexicans in the story did. Not to make money, not to change the world, not to build cool stuff (well maybe just a little), but to genuinely help people. For a business person, this thinking is difficult and counter-intuitive.
Why do I do this? Because of my first mentor (and co-founder).
He was relentless in everything he did. I learned to stay up all night, keep calling on customers, and stay with tasks until we got somewhere with them. I remember many nights with thousands of invoices spread across the carpet, watching the graveyard shift run their machines, or scanning reports on-line, looking for clues. He wouldn't quit and the reason was always the same, "These people need help and we can help them. So we do. Don't worry about how hard it is or how much time we spend, it'll all work out in the end."
Sometimes I think that this is the attitude very successful people must have. It's too easy to give up when it's for ourselves, but much harder when we know that someone else needs us to get the thing done.
The Mexicans in the story reminded me of my mentor. A great lesson for anyone in business (or not). Thank you, OP.
I often share thoughts like this in the OP's spirit of "pass it on" so that it may benefit someone else.
Take it or leave it. But doubting it, commenting on what it "seems", or downvoting it only makes you look like a fool.
[Sorry for the negative tone, but this is a perfect example of the one thing about hn that really bugs me: people talking when they should be listening.]
If you have generally negligible amounts of anxiety in life, the attitude is probably useless. For those of us that have tons, the judicious usage of this attitude is definitely a lifesaver.
If he is stranger and you don't know him, how did you know that your mentor is wiser then? See, you have already made two mistakes: The first, by not accepting an alternative opinion; and second, by thinking that what you know (or you got from your mentor) is doomed to be the best.
In fact, it does not. Your sample of experience may not be representative. This is complicated by various cognitive biases, including confirmation bias as mentioned downthread.
UPDATE: Let me give an example relating to the original post.
Two people, persons A and B, see a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Person A knows nothing about hitchhikers. Person B has seen several sensational news stories about rapist|murderer hitchhikers. In this case, person A will have to rely on their more general knowledge/opinion of people, and will, in my opinion, be more likely to give the hitchhiker a fair chance.
Doing the right thing is a solid way to run your life.
It lets you sleep better at night and build solid relationships when you're awake.
And, strangely, it does work out in the end. It has for me, every time.
I'm glad it worked out for you, but it's rarely ever "just worked out" for me. So, be happy, because you're very lucky!
And, yes, I am aware that I am very lucky.
That made me smile :) That being said, I agree with your sentiment. And in the end, even if it doesn't work out, you never waste time by doing the right thing. I'd rather end up broke and do "the right thing" than to make money with a business I don't believe is making the world a better place. Moreover it seems doing the right thing is more likely to make you money which is kind of nice :)
It is easy to be generous when life is easy, the true test of a person's heart lies in their actions during times of personal adversity.
It is easy to lose hope, more so during hardship, when it is needed most. This story is one of those faint glimmers that may help someone make one choice versus another and start a chain of paying it forward. So, yes, thanks for sharing it OP.
Your mentor's philosophy is exactly what I needed to hear.
If I may be so bold as to offer some advice to Americans: Be careful not to lose this side of your culture, sure you've got the biggest army, the biggest economy and more burger stores than any country would ever need but what has been your real strength for the last 100 years has been your welcoming, trusting and honest nature.
 - http://www.davegorman.com/
 - http://www.davegorman.com/projects_america_unchained.html
I'm going to get downvoted to hell, but I have to say this: I agree completely.
The reason why Americans believe that they are hating elsewhere is people transferring their strong dislike of American politics ("let's invade/interfere (with) countries and call it freedom") onto the American _people_. It's an emotional and intellectual shortcut.
Edit: I see you've been downvoted. I wonder if it's BECAUSE of your preface, rather than IN SPITE of it.
Many people come to HN precisely for that.
HN's downvoting system enables cowards to drown you out with impunity, without providing a rebuttal or alternative view. This is one area where Slashdot's system is so much better. (Note, one area. HN brings things to the table that Slashdot doesn't. So no, I'm not just "going to go to slashdot and leave HN" like some people just thought about saying).
How can you not only prevent this loss but also export this into other countries? How can we spark this in other cultures? How can we get rid of "negative greatness"?
My personal experience of Americans does back up his experience though.
Look at the Irish people (generally a decent lot) and the Irish State (mostly a basket case morally and financially).
People are great. I love people, including nearly all the American I have met. I have yet to meet a state I can respect.
So no, that episode of Top Gear does not bring up any "good points" to draw legitimate conclusions about the American South. All it shows is that if you insult the average person enough, they'll get pissed off enough to deliver a few minutes of good footage. Meanwhile, back here in reality (not in TV land) -- if you visited down South you'd find that, given a broad sampling, Southerners are far kinder and warmer than us from New England. (p.s. I'm not from the South).
It gives me great concern that we as Americans assume so much truth from our 30 minute highlight reels.
I'm sure the South is more welcoming for some people, but I wouldn't assume it to be the case for everybody. And I'm sure it depends on what areas of the south you go to (its still one of the most segregated areas in the US).
It was only when they got closer did I hear that they were talking about nuclear physics.
It was a good reminder about judging books by covers, etc.
Being quite partial to an Irish accent, I decided to eavesdrop and sate my desire.
The first words I heard her say once I 'tuned in' - and I swear this is true - were "potato potato potato". I had to leave the shop quite quickly for fear of losing my composure :)
In any case, these negative comments are a bit irrelevant, because it only takes one person who's willing to spit on you to say "we got spat on there, so people are rotten", but the vast majority has to be kind to you for you to say "we were treated well there, people are kind".
I went to San Francisco and saw many helpful people, I saw a few people who didn't care either way (the bus drivers didn't bother to reply to my "thank you"s or "hello"s) and a guy on the bus shoved me and shouted because he judged that I wasn't giving him enough space.
On average, people have been much nicer to me in London, but I wouldn't say people in SF suck because of that one guy on the bus. There were kind people there as well.
Not sure if DC is considered the North or not, but I had some friends from Florida visit me in DC. No one called them "hick" or "redneck", but honestly their accent was so strong that I don't think it would be identified as southern. Sometimes I literally couldn't understand what they were saying. But they also dressed about as sharp as anyone I know... that probably fights some of the stereotypes.
But don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the North is the most welcoming place in the US either. I simply think your perception of the hospitality of a region is not something uniformly agreed upon.
For example, I'd find a Confederate flag or Swastika offensive, and not welcoming. Whereas I'm sure others would rationalize the postive aspects of their respective histories and not find them offensive in the least.
I spent the day walking around Manhattan. People (mostly white middle-aged women) went out of their way to tell me how offended they were. I told them to "think of the heritage." I'm not American (well, I sort of am, long story), so to me it was both instructive and hilarious.
What was really interesting in hindsight is that none of the Brooklyn hipster transplants at the parties I went to that night thought anything about it.
I know it has become so popular to be laughing about the States over here but let me tell you something... each and every time I had to deal with people from the States over here, they were nothing but friendly and down to earth, good hearted people who enjoy and appreciate company and small talk - even more so than lots of Germans who often give you the feeling they are just waiting for you to rip them off or wave some sales contract into their face next - just because you said "hi" and "how you doing?".
The stereotype of the American who just wants to hear their own voice didn't hold up either - almost all of them were genuinely interested in conversation, though that may have been partly coloured because I was a foreign tourist a little off the beaten track.
Is $15 for a gas can unreasonable when there is quite clearly a market? In theory a $20 labour and parts charge handed to the poor Mexican family should make both parties happy and the economy stronger (barring somewhat awkward questions of tax, right to work etc). In practice the removal of money from a human transaction created an intangible wealth, a bonding of strangers and a transfer of values that has travelled far beyond that stretch of tarmac.
What terrifies me is that, where capitilism has all but become the religion, people act like being selfish is somehow doing the right thing.
Honestly, I couldn't tell by sight at 5 feet is she was male or female. To say this response caught me by surprise is an understatement. Over the long haul, this experience did not deter me from stopping to help, I'm just a little more careful not to go bounding up like an over-excited Labrador puppy with my offers of assistance.
This is probably good advice from a security standpoint as well. Stop to help, but be situationally aware.
Greetings over the Pond!
I am sorry you had this experience. There are always some people who take positive ideas to the other extreme and become exactly like the people they despise.
1. Pissed at her flat.
2. Terrified that some guy stopped to "help" her.
Then again, she could just be a bitch. They do exist.
I wouldn't alter your behaviour though because of this type of reaction. Life is too short to suffer fools.
Why did you feel obligated to stay for the entire lecture?
EDIT: I'm very interested to know why the downvotes are happening.
Really, though; the apology isn't the gist of what I was trying to say. The gist is that the parent poster was in no way obligated to stand and take that lady's entire retarded rant.
I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress.
Basically, the equivalent is probably "it could have been me in your place", I guess.
Floggings in the Royal Navy were done by the bosun's mate, not a random crew member. The bosun and the lieutenants would watch carefully for favouritism. There was no rancour directed towards the mate because everyone knew he was just doing his job.
This (below) attributes the phrase to Montaign:
At any rate, I vastly prefer it to the "Golden Rule." Whenever anyone goes on about it, I always say, "what about masochists?" It may sound a trite response, but I think it's a really important aspect of a moral system that people are different, and you should think about what they want, not what you would want in that situation.
Was his comment to distance the Golden Rule from Christianity? I'm having a hard time interpreting it otherwise, but that's an ignorant effort, as the "do unto others" concept predates Jesus of Nazareth by 1,000+ years.
I'm still not clear on what the point of his comment was; all I did was ask for clarification, with NO commentary at all. Can you clarify his initial intent? If so, please do.
Also, I know you might not have been one of the folks to give me downvotes, so I'll address whoever that was separately: Don't just downvote a comment on HN without explaining your beef. This isn't Reddit.
Hope that clears things up! I definitely wasn't trying to start a controversy. Hope you have a Merry Christmas season :)
It really provided little to negative value to the conversation, and your profanity-laden response doesn't help your case.
We try not to do that on reddit either. We also try to refrain from "this isn't Digg".
The Golden Rule comes from Hillel who was a Rabbi.
Beautiful OP as well.
Sure enough, I stop to take him to where I knew the nearest station was, and in perfect Brooklynese he says, "Am I evah glad to see you!"
One Christmas, I got off work around 2pm. I was driving home to open presents, have dinner, etc. when I came across a delivery van on the side of the road, hopelessly spinning its wheels in about 2 feet of heavy snow. It looked as if they had pulled over to get out of the way or check their map and gotten stuck.
I turned around and pulled up across the highway from them. "Need some help?" I shouted. The dirty, scruffy driver who was digging at the wheels with his foot glared at me, "No dammit! We're fine."
I got back in my car and sat and watched for a minute. He jumped in the van and took some anger out on the gas pedal, digging himself even deeper in. I calmly turned around, backed my car up to about 15 feet in front of his van, stepped out, and stood there with a tow-strap in my hand watching him.
Finally, he got out, gruffly accepted the other end of the strap from me, and hooked it up to his van. I got in my Blazer, set it to 4-Lo and pulled him out of the snow and onto the pavement in about 2 seconds flat.
"Thanks," he said. "No problem. Merry Christmas." I said as I rolled the snatch strap back up. Then he reached into his pocket, "Here. Take this.
"No way," I said. "It's Christmas. Get home safe."
"Absolutely not! It's wear and tear on your vehicle." he growled. Figuring I had probably hurt this guy's pride enough already, I just took what was in his hand, wished him a Merry Christmas again, and got back in my car. I threw the money on the seat next to me: three one-dollar bills.
I smiled and laughed all the way home. I made sure to drop those three dollar bills into the next donation box I saw.
Even simple things can make a person's day. I saw a guy pushing a low cc 1970's Honda motorcycle down the sidewalk in Cambridge a few months ago. I pulled over immediately and ran up to him- it looked like he was having a bad day. He said it wouldn't start after he stalled it. I'd been riding and repairing vintage Honda's myself for about a year at that point, so I was hopeful. Turns out it was just that his battery was dead and he didn't know how to use the kickstarter as he'd just started riding it. A few quick kicks and he was ready to go and now knew how to start his bike without a good battery.
When I have a non-motorcycle I try to always keep a fairly large set of tools in the trunk and anything else I could think to use. My pickup was stocked like a fallout/survival shelter. My motorcycles obviously carry less, but I always try to keep a first aid kit and a blowout kit to get someone to safety.
Few weeks ago slightly aged tire on my not so slightly aged car not only went flat but essentially disappeared on highway (in ~150 kph). As my car was recently broken into I did't have a spare (you are not required to carry spare in Czech Republic, but you are legally required to have some way of fixing broken tires, be it spare, quick-fix-kit or road side assistance subscription). So I correctly assumed that quick-fix kit is of no use when you don't have an actual tire to fix and tried to call road side assistance company which I subscribe to that even offers help with tire replacement. They told me that they cannot do anything else than tow my car somewhere (for like an 2 EUR per km, times two, which was out of question assuming I was like 400km from home) and fix the tire in 2 business days, so I canceled my subscription and went to get spare tire by some other means. In the end my girlfriend called her parents who got me spare tire by some networking and fast talking means in like half an hour, you simply got to like rural areas and people who are always ready to help.
Best experience I've had was in Turkey. Broke down on a Sunday evening, tow truck saw us at the side of the road and gave us a lift to a garage. An official Toyota garage. Shit. The manager of the garage comes out, calls the chief engineer, so now we have four people's time on a Sunday evening to pay for. Turns out we need a new, Toyota-specific part, or we can't drive away, and they have it. At this point they can just name a price, we do not have a choice. It was 100 USD, all-in, parts, labour, and the tow. That price that would be reasonable on a weekday! They must have known that they could charge however much they liked, and they didn't. Much appreciated.
And Mongolia has almost no population density.
He was working at Los Alamos on the bomb, and his wife was dying in hospital. He had to make long drives back and forth to visit his wife. He picks up a hitchhiker, a Mexican who speaks no English. IIRC, he rambles on and tells the Mexican about his wife and how she's sick, but the Mexican can't understand him. The crux of the story is when they break down. They aren't in danger of dying in the desert, they get to a gas station, where the Mexican suddenly speaks perfect English and explains how to fix the car so that Feynman can make it to see his wife in time.
Feynman deduces that the Mexican pretending to speak no English is actually a spy, and asks him why he broke his cover. The Mexican answers that he was moved by Richard's plight.
The emergency arrived. I borrowed Fuchs's car and picked up a couple of hitchhikers, in case something happened with the car on the way to Albuquerque. Sure enough, just as we were driving into Santa Fe, we got a flat tire. The two guys helped me change the tire, and just as we were leaving Santa Fe, another tire went flat. We pushed the car into a nearby gas station.
The gas station guy was repairing somebody else's car, and it was going to take a while before he could help us. I didn't even think to say anything, but the two hitchhikers went over to the gas station man and told him the situation. Soon we had a new tire (but no spare--tires were hard to
get during the war). About thirty miles outside Albuquerque a third tire went flat, so I left the car on the road and we hitchhiked the rest of the way. I phoned a garage
to go out and get the car while I went to the hospital to see my wife.
Arlene died a few hours after I got there.
We were going between villages in the mountains that were -- to say the least -- rural. Most of them probably had thirty or forty people living in them and the only access was a single-lane dirt road barely passable by even four-wheel drive vehicles. The workers in the villages rely on hitchhiking or private "taxis" to get to work. Those with trucks generally pick up anyone on the side of the road who's going in the same direction and flags them down.
Having been the hiker myself on some similar Guatemalan roads previously, I discovered that it's customary to ask the driver how much you owed them for the trip at the end and then pay them (depending on the length of the trip) maybe 5 or 10 quetzales -- I think at the time that was about $1.00 - $1.20 USD or so.
My friend and I got in the habit of picking up everyone we saw and dropping them off at their location; por gratis. Most of them didn't speak Spanish (this was rural enough that nearly everyone spoke some mayan dialect) so it was always a bit of a silly experiment trying to explain that I didn't them to pay.
I like to think that maybe we made a couple people's days and they were able to put a little more food on their table (or heck, beer in their belly).
More generally, I make a point to pick up hitchhikers when I have time -- which sadly is less and less frequent these days. Even if it's a risky proposal, I've been on the other side of the equation one too many times in my life not to try and return the favor.
I was in a peculiar situation with regard of my H1-B (this is long time ago) visa. I was not legal to work, but I was legal to stay. I was in this situation for more than a year.
I lost everything, literally. I ran out of savings. No programming shops would take me, not even Chinese restaurants would take me.
Guess who gave me a job? I worked for this mom-and-pop car shop run by Mexican family. I changed air filters, brake pads, electronic window motors until my visa resolved itself. They paid $1 above minimum wage, they feed me lunch (their home-made salsa was delicious) and in return I maintained their Windows PC.
When my visa resolved, the dad just bought a new warehouse as part of expanding his business. It was a great year for both of us.
It generally doesn't take much to do, it helps traffic, and at least for me, it makes me feel good about myself. Besides, it always irks me when I see someone trying to push their car out of traffic and nobody else is helping. Especially considering the traffic implications around here, when somebody in the road makes an already bad situation worse.
I've been late because of it, but to date, I've never had anybody hold it against me that I was late because I helped somebody move a car.
Helping somebody push a car (so long as you don't ask for payment after, or something) is hard to misinterpret, and has to completely make the recipient's day.
On the other hand, I've also had a borrowed, beaten-up car break down in peak hour in the inside lane and no-one is letting me push it over two more lanes to the plentiful parking on the side. I waited for about two minutes for someone to give me a gap before I realised "hey, car is beaten-up anyway, if it gets hit, it's just another scratch". Waited for a small gap and just started pushing. Not particularly suprising that people with their nice clean paintjobs don't want to plow into a beaten car just to prove a point :)
As a middle aged person who grew up in Houston, I can remember having these basic values (golden rule/help other people) drilled into me by parents/teachers in the 70's.
Somewhere along the way urban life seems to have washed those values away.
It's a classic even in some occidental countries (either that, or requesting help on malls parking).
This doesn't mean I won't help someone - but I'm definitely careful when I do.
Used to help people on the side of the road a lot, but a childhood friend was hit by a truck & killed just recently while helping someone change a flat and I almost broke my ankle in the dark another night when I pulled over to help, and couldn't walk right for months. I haven't been pulling over as much since. :(
On a tangent, things like that ankle injury that really remind me how fragile we are. There was a while there I thought I had permanently injured it.
However, I have called 911 on occasion. It always amazes me how few people call in collisions and accidents. On a recent road trip to the US, I was travelling North from Indianapolis to Chicago, when I see a huge cloud of dust appear ahead of me. As I drive towards it, there's a car flipped upside down in the center ditch. 4-5 cars had already stopped, but I stopped as well, as fast as I could, and called 911.
I was the first that called, out of nearly 10 people on scene.
Please, people, don't assume someone else has called 911, ever.
Never say "somebody call 911". Either call yourself, or pick a specific person and say "you, call 911" and make sure they acknowledge you. Because if you just say "somebody", everyone will assume you meant somebody other than them.
The vote is most likely this week and every call counts.
To tie it back to Hacker News, you'll also be using my company's technology to complete the call.
Hitch hiking has transformed my view of America/Americans and made me really enthusiastic about my country.
I periodically saw people whose cars had broken down on the side of the road, and stopped each and every time to offer help. One time, I drove a woman and her young son to a nearby gas station to make phone calls. Another time, I drove another couple to a nearby town.
It turned out that for one such time, I happened to help the daughter of a researcher who also worked in the same IBM research lab I was working at. The next morning, the father looked me up and took me out to coffee to thank me. That was sweet.
Nowadays, I no longer have to drive late at night, but I still look for the opportunity to help. It has always brought me peace to know that I can get someone out of a jam when needed.
Once when I was in college, I flew to Arizona for Thanksgiving, then back to ND on a Monday to go to class. When I got back, it was one of the worst snowstorms of the year. It was horrible. The school was closed, the roads had been closed that night, snow seemed to just be materializing out of nowhere; it was the type of storm you only experience when you live in the frozen, frozen north.
Well I hadn't slept more than about an hour on the plane, and driving down a 4 lane sheet of ice with no sleep in a two wheel drive little sporty coupe when the visibility is measured in numbers of feet that are less than 100 is a nearly suicidal idea, so I pulled off to the side of the road.
I pulled up the offramp, then back about 50 feet down on-ramp so that the trucks getting on the freeway wouldn't kill me. I [very, very stupidly] left the car idling for the heater, set my phone for a 15 minute nap, and went to sleep.
Halfway through my nap, I hear BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM on the window, which did more to wake me up than the nap ever could have. It was a girl, probably 17, who had seen me stopped on the side of the road, and wanted to make sure I was okay. A high school aged girl that got out of her car in the freezing freezing cold during a horrible snowstorm to run up to some completely random car on the side of the freeway and make sure that the driver didn't need a ride.
I've lived in Phoenix for about 5 years now. This sort of thing would never, ever happen here. In fact, Phoenix has had the opportunity [on several occasions] to prove me wrong about this, and has failed every single time. One summer, our family had a boat, and we were out having fun on Lake Pleasant. At what was probably the worst possible time, which was when we were near 100s of other boats, the fuel pump gave up on us. Not only did this mean that we were going to be floating towards the other boats (and the rocks, this lake is made of all rock), it meant that we didn't have any cell service (this area of the lake is in a cliff). Our boat, obviously disabled, was floating towards the other boats. Somebody is waving the orange flag we have around to let them know we're in trouble, my sisters and I are all in the water with ski ropes trying to pull the thing to safety and...nobody is helping. People are looking at us like "What the hell are you doing get out of OUR WAY!"
We eventually got the motor running (limping, really) and made it out of the cove and into the main lake-almost-when the fuel pump died again. This time, we were in a narrow passage between a couple of rock outcroppings. Maybe 50-75 meters wide. Again, orange flag us up, sisters and I are in the water trying to keep the boat from hitting the rocks and...people are flying past us in the cigarette boats giving us the finger because we're in their way.
I like this, "Today you...tomorrow me". A lot. There was a time when some completely lost kids on their way to a music festival walked past my house as I was unloading some lumber from the jeep. "HEY! Do you know where Kiwanis Park is!?"
"Yeah, about 4 miles south of here."
"Yeah, seriously, are you guys going to earth-dance?"
"Well come over here and help me unload the rest of this wood and I'll give you a ride."
There was another time when somebody came up to me to ask if I knew the bus schedule...
"Why? Where are you going?"
"Oh, well...North Phoenix." (about a 40 minute drive from where we were)
"Huh, well I'll make you a deal. If you promise to do something nice for somebody tomorrow, I'll give you a ride there. Get in."
The latest trend seems to be "rejection therapy". If this helps people, good, but I hate this. Can we instead please make the next trend "Make somebody's day every day for 30 days therapy"?
I went to Tahoe a few years ago with my brother and some friends, and the friends were shocked when us Iowans made them pull over so we could get a car out.
Some things just have to be different though. As a kid I remember asking people for a quarter because I needed to use a payphone. But requests for spare change in the Haight just aren't reasonable to process. Once I tried to ask passersby on Valencia if I could quickly use their cell phone though, and after asking about 50 people just gave up.
On the other hand, I've gotten into road biking out here, and every single time I've gotten a flat the next biker along has stopped to see if they can help.
That said, it's all of our fault. Every day, in this place, I feel myself getting a little more like everyone else here. Thanks for reminding me that I need to do better.
Out of curiosity, do you go to gangplank? Heatsync?
I've not been involved in Heatsync other than to see some of the cool things they do. I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of the founding people on the day they came into Gangplank 2 to start their collaboration, though.
Yeah, a few minutes research and I can't say I really agree with your hypothesis. According to the CDC, 1999-2003 there were 3,442 deaths due to excessive heat with Arizona having 1.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
So yes, Phoenix is trying to kill you, too. So there must be some other difference that causes social friendliness.
A lot of them were transplants from California, out in Phoenix because it was cheaper
"yeah, couple more years and I'll be back on the coast..."
When I lived in Minnesota, people were home. This was their town, so if they saw a member of their community stranded on the side of the road, they'd stop to help them because they recognized them as a member. Consider how helpful we've all seen members of HN be to one another. I think a lot of it is because everybody sortof feels like they're in the same club. We want to see HNers doing well because that means it's one of us doing well.
Out in Phoenix, nobody really even considers themselves a member of the club, they're all just visiting.
For me, in the last year, things have changed dramatically. There really are neighborhoods in Phoenix that people live in, as opposed to just sleeping in, luckily I've found one. The house I live in now is much, much crappier and older and smellier and, honestly, it's completely falling apart, but I'd take it 1000x over the purgatory I used to live in.
Sounds like this 17 year old girl summoned up some courage to help you, instead of minding her own business like so many people do. She might have felt she was taking a chance with her safety to help you, or at the very least be spurned by you. Imagination can be an awful thing sometimes.
I've played Rejection Therapy for awhile now, and it's given me the courage to reach out to estranged family members, to give up my seat on the bus to women, to ask a stranger with a cast if I could walk her dog.
I am a good person, with good intentions, but I am extremely shy by nature and it has handicapped my personality. I've lived alone for many years because of my extreme awkwardness around women. Now I try to reach out to others, even women, despite my fear. I'm now aware that my comfort zone is a cage. And I want out.
Rejection Therapy gives people hope. It permits people to fail, and win, at the same time. That's a trend I want to continue.
Actually, there are some people trying to do something called "make a difference Monday" around here (here being Phoenix, ironically). It amounts to helping out one random person in some way just because. Every Monday is "make a difference Monday."
1) I once had a flat tire that a homeless person offered to change. Yes, he was hoping to make a few bucks. I was still very ill at the time and desperately needed to get something to eat. Having him change it meant it got done faster than if I had tried to call someone, which mattered because every minute counts when my blood sugar is low. We talked while he worked and I found out he had been staying in a cheap dive of a hotel and was trying to come up with enough to sleep there that night instead of the streets. I gave him $60. I later found out it would have cost less to call someone. I didn't care. It was worth it to me to get to an eatery a few minutes faster. My blood sugar was low and I was really in crisis. I had a "middle class" lifestyle but in some sense was in no less need than the homeless man.
2) I think the whole generosity thing is typical of successful business people because creating something of value is what makes them successful. "Business people" who are little more than con artists and are doing their best to separate you from your money without really creating something of value often land in jail or just go out of business when folks realize it isn't worth what they spent. It isn't always obvious in the short run, but in the long run creating something of real value is the only way to stay in business and make money. It seems to be counterintuitive to many, yet "pay it forward" and similar philosophies are rooted in that same idea/value/orientation of doing something of real value in the world.
3) I tend to live by the idea that if you want to live in a better world, the best way to make sure you do is roll your sleeves up and get to work on it. So in some sense, I am generous to other people out of selfishness, though I can't quite think how to explain that. <shrug>
Fortunately it isn't always like that; for example, when my rear-wheel-drive car's traction control failed during a blizzard (due to being turned off for a brief second as a foolish experiment), and I found myself stuck off the side of a rural road, at least six different people stopped to ask if I needed help before my tow arrived, one of them even getting out of her car.
The richer folk see less need in stopping to help because they feel like they're self sufficient; in other words, if they themselves run into car in the future, AAA and cash will bail them out.
This more humble family however knew that if something like this occurred to them, they would definitely appreciate the help. Thus they were more inclined to stop. So I don't know why people here were so surprised...
Hell, the guy himself states all I just said in four simple words. Still, it was quite a touching story.
It's been transfered over three cars now and I've never used it but one day will. Some stations might not even have one to loan. Same thing for jumper cables (which I've used twice in two decades for myself, and another couple times to help others).
But there's a 180 degree different perspective here too as a woman, there will always be a few people who stop, but I rarely trust any of them. This is why I carry two different kinds of old cellphones in my car (one sprint, one GSM) since they can still call 911 or I can call AAA on my regular phone.
By this point I had studied Spanish for a couple of years; I
was by no means fluent, but usually knew enough to get by. However, under the stress of the situation, what ability I did have was completely gone; I started to become angry, inarticulate and flustered. A small group of employees encircled me and tried to speak to me in broken English, while I tried to respond in broken Spanish. After a few minutes, another driver entered the group and announced
he had found the voucher. He easily could have pocketed it and collected the money as pure profit, but instead turned it in. I was impressed, and relieved.
I don't quite get the Hacker angle, but maybe I'm missing something.
I don't know about other software developers / hacker-types, but personally I'm very grumpy and cynical at times. I get very circumspect when making friends or responding to other people's requests for help.
Maybe this is not related to Hackers, but I get the feeling that software developers can become very anti-social. I blame it on the long hours of work in isolation, or the analytically oriented thinking we are capable of (which I view as a job related problem at times, like burnout, because I can't switch it on and off as much as I'd like to).
While it's a bit of a stretch, I think it fits nicely into the hacker mindset.
I used to live in the metro-Detroit area and there have been at least 3 or 4 cases in the past year where people have been robbed at gunpoint by alleged hitchhikers. This is what makes me think that this country has gone to hell.
Haha. You mean documented evidence of crime and real people that have been robbed? You're right. I should just ignore it and chock it up to "fear".
The story linked here tries to get me with sympathy instead of fear. You shouldn't fall victim either.
It's not often that so much can be wrapped up in just 4 words.
In places where there is less material wealth, people need more cooperation to get by. There's a lot more give for the sake of giving.
I could be wrong though. Thats just my experience.
When someone does stop he breaks their tire iron, lets them buy a new one, accepts their food and water, and offers a token $20 dollars as compensation?
Maybe today you, tomorrow me was said with a hint or sarcasm (although in a daytime TV movie script like this I dount it).
We habitually rely on institutions or the government to save our bacon, something an immigrant likely has no desire for interacting with.
About 5 years ago I planned to visit friends in Texas by car from a little place called Richards Landing in Ontario. That's a pretty long trip and even though we had two stops planned it still was going to take a lot of time on unfamiliar roads, plenty of the driving at night.
Somewhere in Iowa, about 45 minutes past Decorah a deer teleported out of nowhere in front of the car and we hit it hard enough that the deer was probably mortally wounded (it still managed to run off!) and the bonnet lock had crushed all the way in to the valve cover.
The car looked an absolute mess and it didn't look like we were going to reach our destination.
We limped in to some sleepy town (2:30 am), some gas station right off the highway wondering what to do next.
Before we could even ask the guy that ran the garage came out and said he's already called his brother in law and he was underway. We didn't really get what was going on but since we couldn't really go anywhere we just hung out, 5 minutes later a pick-up rolled in to the gas station with a sleepy looking guy in it. He jumped out, walked around our minivan, asked if it still moved or of we needed a tow. The car still ran (but made some pretty scary sounds) so he told us to follow him.
After a few minutes we got to an industrial area of the small town, he rolled up a huge garage door and we were welcomed to his car repair service.
In the space of 4 hours he took the front of the car apart, straightened out the pieces that had taken the brunt of the impact, fixed the valve cover with some of the most impressive epoxy that I've ever seen, found ways to get each and every one of the problems the car had to be fixed in a temporary but very serviceable way.
Little by little the car looked like it was going to be a reliable vehicle again and at the end the only tell-tales were the dent in the hood and two tie down straps running across it to hold it down (the lock had gone beyond repair).
So, when all was done we aked how much we owed him, the answer was simple: "Nothing. Could have happened to me just the same, and I'm sure you folks would have helped me out as much as you could too."
Whatever we did he refused payment, so in the end we bade our goodbyes and continued to Texas, from there to Fort Collins, Colorado and from there back to Canada, the 'temporary' fixes held as good as could be expected and when we turned the car in for a proper repair it was in a way a weird feeling because we'd gotten used to seeing the orange stripes across the hood :)
There are lots of nice people in this world.
While I don't personally help everyone I've come across, I have done exactly as in the story, as have many of my friends: helped someone, accepted a reward to stop them from making a big issue of it, then secretly returned the reward because it wasn't the point of helping in the first place. Sometimes the most fun part of the story is the acrobatics required in returning the reward before you part ways.
Requirement for suspension of disbelief: zero.
And why does this have to be a troll post? The Internet is full of this stuff, reddit in particular (see IamA). Is it so bad to be skeptical?
For example, people who appear to be extremely wealthy are much less likely to be generous tippers, because most people with garish appearances are actually middle-class folk who are up to their ears in debt accrued while accumulating the trappings of their specious wealth.
The people who actually have money to spare are the ones who live within their means, whether that's tens of thousands of dollars per year, or tens of millions.
Similarly, people who seem like they have all the time in the world are actually less likely to be good samaritans, because they're caught up in the high-speed goal-oriented mental framework where every minute has a Scheduled Purpose That Must Be Fulfilled.
The people who actually have time to spare are the ones who do not over-commit themselves, and are "disconnected" in just the right ways. I don't mean disconnected technologically, because it's entirely possible to take a liesurely stroll while tinkering with a smartphone. I mean "disconnected" in the sense that they are not plugged into the country-wide network of social obligations and expectations that most of us accept without even realizing there is an alternative.
Also, from a more concrete standpoint, please consider the context in which your disbelief is thriving. This is a world where people lie to friends, business partners and loved ones for decades at a time to accumulate fraudulent wealth; where inexorable neuroses drive people to become serial rapists; where devoted hobbyists spend weeks and months of their lives to do things like catalog every instance of the "Wilhelm scream" in the history of cinema, or document the pop culture references in every episode of the Simpsons; where some privileged people are so affluent that they can spend more on a single meal than an entire family of third-world country residents spend in an entire year of living expenses. In this world, men can survive in the vacuum of outerspace, where there is literally nothing. Men can survive in the depths of the ocean, where the exponential weight of the ocean creates enough pressure to crush steel.
We live in a world of absurd extremes, pernicious and healthy. Viewed through this lens, is the OP story really so unbelievable? If Buddhist monks can forgive oppressors who murdered their friends and loved ones, is it really that improbable that some worldly Mexicans stopped to help a down-on-his-luck white guy because they had a jack and tire iron in the van?
All we can do is speculate about whether the story is true or not, and in practice, its veracity is completely irrelevant to our lives. You said "I really don't believe it." What I understand that to mean is "I am as certain that story false as I am certain that I'll suffocate without air." To the extent that you are saying the story is certainly untrue, I am confused by your skepticism. What about the story seems that unbelievable? That in all the billions of people in the world, that four of them didn't end up in a van on the highway with the means and and impetus to help a stranger?
"I have to say though, I've met plenty of non-poor, non-immigrant folk that like to help people out."
Sorry... I hate how much it seems like I'm just categorically slamming everything you're saying, but I'm honestly not gunning for that: When did anyone claim that non-poor, non-immigrant folk don't enjoy helping people out? In my grandparent post, I was only contending that the likelihood of someone helping may be unintuitive. I fancy myself a non-poor, non-immigrant fellow who likes to help people out... so it clearly can't be impossible. :-)
When someone says "I really don't believe that," what I hear is, "I am certain that more of this story is false than true." Based on this post, though, that doesn't seem like what you're saying--it seems like you are just asserting that the story has just been modified to become a little bit "larger than life." For example, maybe in real life the tire iron didn't break, but in the Redditor's Magical-Love-Compassion-Universe, it snapped and the Mexican man's wife was on the road to get a new one just seconds later, still all smiles.
When it comes to stuff like that, I have what I would call "Schrodinger's belief" in those details. It's not that I believe or disbelieve; I simply wouldn't be surprised either way. Turns out the details were embellished? No shock there. Turns out it was patently true, through-and-through? Well that's just spiffy.
I was upset when I thought you were certain that the entire thing was fabricated. I didn't understand how anyone could come to possess a world-view that precluded the possibility of such a simple kindness. And, as we all know: Humans fear the unknown; Americans yell at it and accuse it of terrorism. So, to the extent that you were just saying "This seems embellished," I'm sorry I called you a spiritual terrorist.
When I re-read your OP now, I think I see what happened.
This was my thought process when I originally read it, and I bet the downvoters felt similarly:
> That's a good story but a little over the top.
I can buy that. Obviously I'd like to believe it's 100% true, but everyone loves to embellish.
> If the author had dispensed with the $20 bill in the tamale the suspension of belief would have been a little more effective.
Wait, what? "Suspension of disbelief?" This guy doesn't believe the entire story... and it's because the Mexican wouldn't take the poster's money? That's crazy. I've turned down money after helping a stranger before; why wouldn't the good samaritan in the story? This guy is either crazy, misanthropic, racist, or a combination of all three. My disgust must be broadcast to the world... dear colkassad, who was foolish enough to be wrong on the internet, I downvote you with the fury of a thousand suns!
Okay, maybe that last part was a little over the top. But the gist of it is: I think that when you explicated a potential embellishment that everyone else had ostensibly already accepted, they thought you were taking it one step further.
Or, I dunno. Maybe people were just pissed 'cause we're all optimistic hippies and you were harshing our rainbow love groove. The world may never know.
Thanks for continuing to explain yourself in the face of my opinionated ranting, by the way--I love Hacker News most of all for its tendency to nurture discussions like this.
I am sorry you have reason to be so cynical. I can't vouch as to whether the OP is true, but I can assure you that real life can and does "play out like that".
I have no problem believing the authenticity of the story. Some cultures behave in certain ways (when it comes to money) that is very hard for western society to understand.
The point isn't the car trouble. The point is that nobody stopped to help him....except the poor, Mexican family, who had all the best reasons for not wanting to stop, who refused payment for their help, and then sent him on his way with a lesson about social responsibility.