Useless Samaritans

By Kersley Fitzgerald

A man was going down from San Francisco to Colorado Springs, and fell among a dog, and it attacked him, and went away leaving his arm half off. He was taken to the hospital where they treated him and released him in a wide suburb, miles from any social services help. And by chance a woman getting a latte saw him sitting between the pick-up counter and the table with the sweeteners and half-and-half, and when she saw him, she passed by on the other side. Likewise a dad also, when he came to the coffee shop and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But another woman, grabbing breakfast before work, came upon him; and when she saw him, she felt compassion, and came to him. She could see the bandage around his wound half hidden in the sleeve of his ratty parka. She came up to him and listened to his story.

She tried to figure out what to do. She wasn't going to drive a stranger, half-stoned from pain meds, by herself. But she had no cash for a cab. And when she called the one person she thought could help, her cell phone died.

Frustrated, she said, "I'm sorry. I can't help you," and went to work feeling like the most useless Good Samaritan on the face of the planet, but at least she tried.

When she got to work, her office had prayer time. She talked about the man and her volunteer work for girls who had been caught in sex trafficking and her second job for a design shop. And her co-workers told her about the massage parlor a couple of storefronts down from the design shop. She heard their description and knew it exactly fit the characteristics of a place with sex slavery. And she had never noticed.

And any crumbs of self-righteousness she felt blew away.

We love that Good Samaritan story, don't we? We love knowing that being a Christ-follower means that we are the Good Samaritan. We sponsor children and donate to the church benevolence fund and get turkeys for needy families at Thanksgiving. We don't ignore our neighbor. Except when we do.

I'm not talking about the guys standing on busy intersections with "veteran, any amount appreciated" written in marker on cardboard. (Or maybe I am.) Or the homeless camps we pass on our way out of town—the ones along the creek, mostly hidden by the trees. I'm talking about the few individuals who stumble up, look us in the eye, and say, "I need help." Or the people three doors down from our work who are in slavery. And I'm not talking about feeling deep concern or saying a prayer. I'm talking about usefulness. If someone needed help, would we know what to do?

And the useless Samaritan went home and thought things through. She didn't have a donkey or oil or wine, but she resolved to figure out who did—for next time. And she knew she couldn't confront a line of johns cycling through an alley to abuse immigrant women who had been tricked and threatened into sex slavery, but she could email the ministry she volunteered with and see what could be done. And she knew she could not save the world, and a lot of times she couldn't even save one person, but in a big, connected world filled with webpages and wireless and smart phones, she figured she didn't really have an excuse to be ignorant. She could at least figure out the first step.

And then she went on Facebook and learned of a family who desperately needed money and food after the dad crashed his motorcycle. And she said, "I know this one!" And she suggested a local ministry that could help.

Image: "Master of the Good Samaritan"; Public Domain

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Published 5-14-13