Helping Oren: Break the Bystander Effect

Helping Oren: Break the Bystander Effect

I first met Oren Miller in October 2012 at the At-Home Dad Convention, meeting that year in Washington, DC.

Prior to DC, he was someone I only knew online, mostly through his writing on his blog A Blogger and A Father. There he tackles a lot of the same things I do here on Daddy Doctrines — a healthy mix of personal parenting anecdotes, both sweet and funny, and commentary on modern fatherhood through the eyes of a stay-at-home dad. He was also one of the guys I learned to rely on to play Devil’s Advocate for me, after he took a contrarian’s view on the whole Huggies Thing both before and after. I grew to respect him a lot.

Meeting him in person, like meeting anyone you have previously only known online, was a little bit shocking. Yes, there was the wholly unexpected strong Israeili accent, but more than that was his quiet, unassuming demeanor that held sway right up until a razor wit or ridiculously profound observance burst forth. Anyone who knows him will know what I mean.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to hang out with Oren again, most recently at the Dad 2.0 Summit last February in New Orleans, where we posed together to have our butts sketched by a master butt sketcher.

It’s the little things, man.

One day Oren did something that, to him, was very much a small thing, but that has had a huge, long-lasting impact on many, when he decided to start a Dad Bloggers Group on Facebook. That group, now at almost 800 members, brought together blogging dads from all over the globe — the experienced, the newbies, the criminally unknowns, and the superstars — and gave them a place to talk shop, compare notes, coordinate campaigns, and generally just form a community. For many guys, myself included, it was the lynch-pin to their success at what they do. Beyond inspiration and friendships and debates and lots of questionable humor, there has been a real brotherhood formed. I know I am not alone in feeling a deep sense of gratitude to Oren for what he has built. He’s our humble leader, and we love him.

Near the end of May, Oren was diagnosed with lung cancer. Stage 4, with a prognosis that means surviving the year would be unlikely. Soon, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his brain.

While the rest of us were rocked numb by the news, Oren wrote about his diagnosis here, in one of the most moving things I have ever read. Seriously, go read it. I’ll wait.

What do you say to a friend who is facing such a trial?

Much has been written about our tendency to face such situations by easily falling victim to what is called the “bystander effect,” wherein the greater the number of other bystanders around the less likely it is that any of them will step in to help a person in need. Particularly when it’s someone who we interact with primarily through social media, where the whole world are potential “bystanders,” the problem can be huge.

We may genuinely hurt deeply for our friends when we hear about what they are going through, but other than offer words, we rarely do much more.  After all, what more can we do? Oren is on the other side of the country. Surely he has friends and family around him who know better what he needs and can provide it better. So we say our words of comfort or encouragement to our friend, and our words in prayer to our God. I share with my family and friends about his long road ahead and solicit their prayers as well. But if there is more that can be done, we assume someone else will do it.

The Dad Blogger community that Oren had built wanted to do something more than just give him our words — as much as those meant to him — and thankfully Brent from Designer Daddy stepped up. He set up a “Give Back to Oren” GiveForward campaign, with the goal of raising $5,000 to help Oren and his family have the vacation of a lifetime while he still can; to build some long-lasting memories while there is still time. Within half a day that goal was surpassed, and a new goal of $10,000 was set. Then $20,000. Suddenly our wish to gift them a nice vacation was becoming our chance to offer some real help and support for the long term for Oren and his family.

Will you help?

Donate to Give Back to Oren

Will you help us all overcome this bystander effect, and give what you can to help Oren and his family?

And don’t forget to read Oren’s moving cancer story, too!

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