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Am I a Good Samaritan?

Tammy Hise shares one of her "Good Samaritan" moments and the opportunities she's missed:

Recently my daughter was visiting from Tulsa, and she and my mother and I were having lunch. My mom had been looking so forward to spending the day with us and having us all to herself. As we were talking, I noticed this elderly gentleman walk into the restaurant with a cane. He was having a hard time getting in and before I could do anything, he was seated.

We were at the restaurant quite a while, so later, I noticed him getting up to leave. He seemed to be having a very difficult time getting around and I knew he would have a hard time opening the door. Right in the middle of my mom’s story, I jumped up and said I’ll be right back. I ran up to the man and opened the door and asked if I could help him to his car. He said he didn’t want to impose and that he would be fine, but thanked me for opening the door.

It would have been so easy just to say goodbye and go on about my visit with my mom and Chelsea, but I felt compelled to help him further. I told the man I would really like to help. He was worried about the water puddle outside and my shoes getting wet, but I could tell he was worried about himself as well. I told him I didn’t mind wet feet and I wanted to help him. I could see the relief in his face and he asked me to come around to the other side to help him. He told me how scared he is of falling, especially in wet spots, and that he goes very slow so he hopefully won’t fall.

As we walked, he told me he doesn’t get out much anymore but that he was just so lonely today he just had to get out. He said it is very hard sometimes for him to deal with the cane and doors and most often he doesn’t have anyone to help him. We got to his car and I helped him get in. He thanked me so profusely, but I just felt like that is what we are all supposed to do.

He said something that just made me think. He said, "Rarely has anyone stopped to help me. You are a bright spot to my day and I really appreciated the help and the conversation."

Wow. I didn’t do much and it only took a few minutes out of my day. When I got back to the table, I think my mom was a little annoyed because she didn’t know why I jumped up and left. I explained the situation to her and told her I would want someone to help her if she were in the same situation. She completely understood and was grateful I did it.

How often do we pass by someone who needs help? In Luke 10:25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, others passed by the man who was robbed, stripped and beaten, but the Good Samaritan stopped and took care of him. The phrase “Good Samaritan” is used to describe anyone who goes out of his way to help another. But this Parable is about more than helping people in need.

It is also about excuses and self-justification; about letting ourselves off the hook. I’m ashamed to admit how many times I have walked by someone that probably needed help or a kind word. How often do we ignore the need because of our own internal musings or a need to stick to our own agenda? 

I can think of a few excuses that have probably gone through all of our heads:

  • I don’t have time for that today
  • I’m tired
  • Someone else will help them
  • My kids need something so I can’t help with that
  • I already do enough other things, surely God doesn’t want me to try to do everything
  • Why won’t that person do more to help themselves
  • I bet he could get a job if he really tried
  • What if it puts myself in a dangerous situation to help

In the Parable, Jesus isn't satisfied to just define what neighbor means, but he commands us to do as the Samaritan does, to show mercy to our fellow man who is in need. We often justify our lack of love or empathy for "certain" people. Every person in this world was created by God, in His image, and deserves to be loved.

Are we as Christians supposed to be "do-gooders?" Yes, I think we are. But our motivation for doing good should be love for others with a heart of mercy that is moved by compassion.

This story makes me examine my own heart. What motivates me? How much has my own selfishness and sticking to my own agenda taken away the mercy that should blossom in my heart through his Holy Spirit? When "push comes to shove" do I put myself first, or do I put the needs of others first?

For me, Jesus' command, "Go and do likewise," means that I must value acts of mercy over personal productivity. What does it mean for you? I challenge each of us, if we feel a tug on our heart to do something that could show others they are loved, we need to take action and trust that God is doing the real work in us and through us.  He is making himself known through our love.

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