Letter in Remembrance of Michael Stuckey

[The following is a letter I received about Michael Stuckey, the heroic altruist who was murdered in San Francisco in 1993 while saving the life of a woman who was being attacked by a knife-wielding assailant. The author has given me permission to post the letter here. It serves as an additional memorial to a very fine human being, and shows that even after all this time
he has by no means been forgotten. —S.H.]

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From: robyn olsen
Date: 6 Sep 2006

Dear Scott,

      I’m writing because I found an article on the internet you wrote many years ago called “Problem of Altruism”.

      In the article you mentioned Michael Stuckey, the good Samaritan who was murdered in 1993 in San Francisco. Though it was written so long ago, I wanted to say a few things to shed light on his true character.

      I found this article because many years later, I’m still wondering if anyone else’s life was changed so dramatically as mine by his act of selflessness.

      He was one of my best friends. We attended school together, we worked together, and we spent a lot of our time together.

      What I do know about Michael is this was no split second decision; to jump out of his car and help this woman. This was a code by which he lived his life that allowed him to navigate the cruelty and suffering in the world with honor.

      I can honestly say that if Michael had seen someone suffering at any point in his life, he would have done the exact same thing. Michael couldn’t stand to see a living being harmed. He was too empathetic to allow that to occur in his presence.

      He wouldn’t have been able to live with himself had this woman been hurt or killed while he sat honking or flashing his lights from the safety of his car.

      Through the years I knew him, I never saw any desire to promote himself, to be recognized, or to be a hero. He had a low-key demeanor and did not like drawing attention to himself. The only time this would change was when he felt something or someone was being treated unfairly.

      He preferred people to give attention to his art, which pointed towards stillness, self-introspection, and spirituality.

      Is it really possible that he had no desire to be famous from this act? Yes. I believe the thought of harm coming to him from jumping out of his car that day never entered his mind. He simply saw what needed to be done and did it.

      While many of us are debating how much to “get involved” there are people like Michael busy taking action.

      How has knowing Michael changed my life? I have gathered the strength to speak and stand up for what I know is right many times when it was easier to walk away.

      My profession is a counselor. My work focuses on helping individuals take responsibility for their lives and develop a strong sense of integrity by developing a belief system that centers on honor and respect.

      I know many people were changed by Michael’s selfless act, and it was good to know that someone who had never met him understood him just the same.

Thank you,
Robyn Olsen

Dear Robyn,

      Thanks much for your letter. It confirms everything I believed about Michael Stuckey, and everything that others who knew him also say. Reading your letter and just thinking about Michael again, even after all this time and even though I didn’t know him personally, brought forth some emotions. He was such a good person, and was not only courageous, but courageous for the very best of reasons—concern for the welfare of others. He is indeed a person who should not be forgotten.

Scott Harrison

My discussion of Michael Stuckey and his heroism in my essay on altruism.

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