Most people know the parable of The Good Samaritan as told by Christ Himself in Luke 10. It’s one of those stories that has transcended the pages of the Bible and is used by many to teach kindness. After months of pondering and application of this idea, I want to dig a little deeper into a key principle I believe is often overlooked.
First off, let’s throw aside the normal focus of the story – the speculation that the ‘traveler’ was Jewish, meaning the Samaritan was the least likely of the three (Priest, Levite, Samaritan) to stop (Samaritans had no dealings with Jews at that time see John 4:9) and that Christ choosing to depict a Samaritan as the hero to a bunch of Jews completely rocked their world. Forgetting all that, think of the story as merely four people traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. The first, for some reason drawing the short straw in life, ended up beaten, robbed, and left for dead by thieves, and the rest following behind.
I’m somewhere around 100 days into my project of talking to a stranger every day for a year in an effort to be more aware of those around me. Being aware of all the people and situations unfolding around me is actually far more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Difficult because no two situations are ever the same and every minute of my life new things are happening. Being aware is about paying attention to even the smallest details of a constant changing atmosphere and it has taken me months to get only slightly good at. Even though I’m better than when I started, I still find myself learning from small and large instances where I lacked awareness. On top of that I know there are still plenty of instances where I had no idea I was unaware at all. But everyday is a new day to be a little bit better and I try to take that for all it’s worth.
Running late to a church activity and pondering deeply on what I needed to do to be more aware, I was jolted out of my deep thought when I heard a loud honk and noticed a car coming the opposite way turned weird in the median. I thought the guy just did something stupid and so I kept driving. I turned at an intersection that was just right there and for some reason looked in my rearview mirror in time to see that the hazards were blinking and that car was now sitting perpendicular to oncoming traffic. Having been pondering how I could be more aware, I immediately recognized this as an opportunity to do something for someone around me who needed help. I turned the car around before I could finish my thought process, parked it, and ran into the street to help him push. It was just me and the one guy in the car who ended up pushing it up the street and through a busy intersection to a (luckily) nearby gas station. Our exchange was short and I left once he was pulled up to the pump, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would have missed that opportunity if I hadn’t been thinking about how to be more aware. It wasn’t the easiest or most convenient way for me to help someone, but that was the opportunity I was given. I was still slightly late to the activity but in the big picture, did it really matter? No. I learned more about God and his love for all his children from being a part of that experience than I did at the activity anyway.
On my way to an appointment one night, I noticed a man on the side of the road obviously struggling to carry quite a few bags of groceries. I was cold in my car so I knew he was probably freezing outside. I thought about stopping to offer him a ride but even after having numerous other instances like this, and always being grateful I stopped, I kept driving. But like all those other experiences, I found myself turning around about a half mile up the road and backtracking to find him. (Not sure how long the learning curve is on this but one of these days hopefully I’ll learn to stop right away) When I pulled up, he was barely making any progress. He didn’t even hesitate to take me up on my offer. His house was still another mile or so up the road. He thanked me numerous times and kept telling me I’d have blessings return to me. Honestly, I was just grateful that I was able to be aware enough to recognize a man who needed help and blessed to be a tool in The Lord’s hand to make his burdens lighter. At the end of the day, yes, I was a few minutes later to my appointment. But in the big picture, did it really matter? Nope. If anything it brightened my mood and made a positive impact on the person I went to see.
So a Priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan are all on their way to officiate in a sabbath sermon or to a very important business meeting or to take care of a debt or to see family… Whatever the circumstance we can pretty much agree that all three, no doubt, had some purpose for their travels. Only one of those three, recognized the urgency of the situation and placed his own agenda and destination aside for a moment to focused on the needs of a man who needed his attention. In addition to the lesson of care we can learn from The Good Samaritan, I love the principle of spontaneous kindness we are taught. Whatever agenda he had was put on hold to help a man who could not afford to be left alone any longer.
I recognize in our daily travels that sometimes we cannot stop. But I think more often than not, if we take a second and think about things in the big picture, being a few minutes late in exchange for a few minutes of practicing Christlike love, is an opportunity we all have time for.
If you have the desire to help and you keep your eyes open, opportunities will come. They may not be what you had in mind, but that’s exactly when people need it the most. We cannot choose the people who need our help. We can only choose to be willing to help those who need it and keep our eyes open to find them.
I only share so many personal stories because I know that oftentimes people recognize opportunities to be better when they hear a story and realize they had never thought to do that. I am influenced by your stories regularly. Don’t hesitate to share your stories with me on here or via text or Twitter or Facebook or whatever. I really won’t think it’s weird even if you don’t know me.
**Image via sermons4kids.com