The world is big, and mankind has progressed in many ways over the centuries. However, in some ways we have grown more paranoid, and less hospitable. As religion slowly fades away, so do the moral codes people used to live by. In the United States today, the only situation I can think of where it is obligatory to help a stranger, is if you are the first to see a car accident. By law you are required to stay put and report it. Apart from this, the citizens have no obligation to take care of anybody but him/herself.
In the Ancient Middle East the Christians, Muslims, and Jews all showed unimaginable hospitality towards strangers. In Islam, the hospitality relationship is also a trinity between: the host, stranger, and God. Hospitality is a right rather than a gift, and the duty to supply it is a duty to God, not to the stranger. The Koran states that all Muslims should provide 3 days of hospitality/entertainment to travelers. The bible teaches to treat those in need in accordance with the story of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan helped a wounded man to an inn, and paid for his stay until he was well enough to continue on. This entire culture of hospitality in the Middle East was so strong that it came with a warning- “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.
There are points in history where some cultures have taken hospitality to an extreme level. For example, it was reported by white missionaries that Aleutian and Alaskan Eskimo men would allow traveling strangers to stay in their homes, and allow the stranger to sleep with their wives for a night. If that isn’t a bit much, I don’t know what else you could sacrifice to a stranger.
From my experience traveling, I have noticed that in any city, regardless of which country, people tend to be paranoid and less willing to offer directions or welcome people into their homes. Yet, in the countryside and in sparsely populated areas trusting people still exist. Some people are willing to lend a hand, yet it’s not an obligation.
Why has society gone backwards in regards to the treatment of strangers? Perhaps today’s world is more consumer/material driven? That, and religion no longer steers the moral code of society. Not even the Eskimos are willing to take such chances with strangers nowadays.