Certain scientists claim that helping others stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. For some, the feeling is akin to biting into a cheeseburger; for others it’s like receiving a warm hug. This is just another reason why we should help people.
I don’t know why, but I’m like Dr. Jekyll when I’m in Forest Park, whereas, I become Mr. Hyde whenever I go to downtown Chicago. When I’m in business mode, I walk fast, avoid eye contact and only support panhandlers who are musically entertaining. Thank God everyone’s not like me.
My wife and I recently went downtown and acted like tourists for the day. We rode the El, had lunch at Berghoff, walked through Millennium Park and Strolled along Burnham Harbor. You can’t beat big city access.
After I finished reviewing a court file, so I could charge for the trip, we entered the Green Line for the ride back. We were well past the turnstiles when my wife looked back and saw a blind man having difficulty: his card wasn’t working and the turnstile wouldn’t budge. To my astonishment, she asked me to walk back and help him.
I would never have done this on my own. But it seemed necessary, because the other commuters were acting as heartless as me. I offered to hold the man’s cane. He handed it to me and said he was going to swing over the top of the turnstile. I wouldn’t have tried this and I’m only nearsighted. He braced himself with his arms and swung his legs over the top, after which I congratulated him for his courage and handed over the cane.
As I shifted back to top speed, my wife stopped me. Wasn’t I going to help him? she asked. Jeez, I thought, holding his cane during the parallel bars had been enough. She walked back to the man and offered to take his arm.
Just because my wife is unfamiliar with Loop etiquette doesn’t mean that I had to be a party to her unselfishness, I thought. So, I remained a safe distance ahead, while she had a friendly chat with the man as they ascended the escalator, arms locked, until they reached the platform.
Then she walked him over the arching pedestrian bridge so he could catch a westbound train. The man then thanked us by name before he went on his way (why he thanked me, I’m not sure).
My wife’s kindness ended up being contagious: A young man on the platform took over and guided the man to the exact spot he wanted to go. I felt like a Pharisee surrounded by Good Samaritans.
So, if you get a chance to help a stranger, do so; it will give you calorie-free pleasure. You also might get a thrill. According to my wife, the man she helped wasn’t at all like me – he works out.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.