I was an uncertain Samaritan
Last Sunday after church and lunch at a Mexican restaurant, I drove past a broken-down car with the owner, a young woman, sitting on the ground with a grubby child by a flat tire. The contents of her trunk were strewn in the dirt. She was speaking on her cell phone.
I thought about stopping. But I had a full suite of things on my ToDo list.
I had noticed that many other cars just drove on by. The scene reminded me of the Good Samaritan story.
I turned the car around and came back. Rolled down my windscreen and asked the woman if I could help. She was talking on her cellphone when I interrupted her. She asked me if I had a spare tire donut, which I did not.
I was stumped and didn’t know what to do. So I asked if she had AAA, the car service company. She said no.
I didn’t know what to do again.
She turned to me and said thanks for stopping, but she would be okay. She continued on the phone.
I drove away reluctantly, wishing I could have helped.
I was an uncertain Samaritan. Motivated to help, but not knowing how to help. In retrospect I should have asked her if I could call AAA and pay for her membership. Then they would have sent help. But I missed it.
I wonder if this is why church people don’t often stop to help strangers – because they might not know what to do, and this is uncomfortable. I suppose the Good Samaritan knew what to do, because there lay a man in the ditch, obviously beaten up. He probably thought, I’ll patch the man up and get him to a hotel where he can recover.
But in truth, like me, the Good Samaritan was probably afraid of not knowing if he could help. The beaten-up man may have been dead. Or too ill to be moved. Or he may have died on the way to the hotel. Yes, there was uncertainty.
Plus there was also fear that it might have been a trap – that the bandits were waiting behind the ridge for the Samaritan – ready to beat him up and rob him.
All this helped me understand why its difficult to be a Good Samaritan in 2019. But I’m still glad I stopped the car and offered to help. Here’s why…
I’ve often said, if you offer to help someone in need, God can amplify your help. That didn’t happen, because I didn’t help her in any tangible way. But at least the woman may have appreciated that someone cared enough to stop and offer to help. This is one way we can be light and salt to the world in need.
Offering to help is love in action. And it can be much more effective than witnessing words, which can turn people off.
Today is one week later. I drove after church to an event called Noonday, which feeds homeless people. My church sponsors this event once a month. I had missed a couple months through traveling but wanted to do my bit once again.
I dried the dishes – the plastic plates that the meal is served on as well as large steel containers used for cooking and serving food. I spent a couple hours on this task as well as wiping down tabletops after the people had eaten. About 15 folks from the church (men, women and children) served 50-70 homeless people.
But once again I was uncertain. I don’t know what to say to homeless people. I’m sure Jesus circulated amongst some people who were homeless, and I wonder what he would say to these people in Albuquerque. The sermon on the mount? The Lord’s prayer? How God can lift you up out of this condition? That God loves you?
In our event this noon, a few Christian songs were sung. And a brief message was given – first about God’s love and second about Paul the apostle’s message about faith, hope and love. I kept thinking: if I were homeless, what would I take away from the message? What do I want to hear that would help my life?
The best thing about the event, for me, was love in action. We provided something tangible. We fifteen members of the church provided a handsome meal for 50-70 itinerant homeless folks. I was glad that I went. That two hours was spent not thinking about myself but helping someone – not like me – to hope.
I once wrote a blog about a bad Samaritan – me – when I blew an opportunity to be a good Samaritan. To read about this fun story, click HERE (then hit back-arrow to return to this blog article).
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Great blog Ian. Reminds us all to be about our Father’s business of reaching out to help others… even if sometimes they may be taking “advantage” of us.
If we do our good deeds unto the Lord, we can never be “taken advantage of” …because God knows our heart and knows we did it unto Him.
As always, your disclosures and reflections in your spiritual journey bring joy to my heart. After all I spend most of my time in the shadow side. I read and thought how we need more people like you. You reminded me of the sarcastic criticism, “Wouldn’t Christianity be a great religion if we just tried it out!” BTW, are you still dancing? Maybe we could catch up again … Blessings, Dave
P.S. What’s also so remarkable about the good Samaritan story is that very period of history itself … tribes hated each other and the Samaritan rescued someone who generally was considered an enemy.
I think good Samaritans don’t always have an answer for the problem at hand. I too have had like experiences, and then later think of things I could have said or done. Being human is limiting in our abilities to solve all problems quickly. The important thing is that you noticed the need and took action, even though you think you did not help. But maybe you did help in ways you will never know. Thank you for your willing service at the “Noonday” activity, helping with feeding those in need. That was the Gospel of Jesus Christ in action. As for not knowing what to say to the “Noonday” patrons, I think a generous smile and a sincere greeting goes a long way in making people feel valued. I’m sure you gave such a gesture to each person you met.
I have a Good Samaritan story which had an unexpected ending.
I used to be a proprietor of an agricultural machinery dealership with a branch at Booleroo Centre, South Australia (about 250 km north of Adelaide) and another branch at Wudinna (about another 250 km west of Booleroo Centre). I had been visiting the Wudinna branch and left to return home to attend an important Parish Council meeting. I was about 50 km into my return journey and I saw an old Holden sedan – obviously broken down – and a couple of young people looking quite distressed. I stopped to see if I could help, as they were ‘in the middle of nowhere’ on Eyre Peninsula which is a very sparsely populated part of Australia. They were English tourists who intended to drive across The Nullabor Plain to Perth (on Australia’s west coast).
I told them I would try and help and invited them to travel back to Wudinna with me. I told one of the mechanics at the dealership to travel out to the car and tow it back to the workshop if necessary. I also told the branch manager to waive all charges and help them resume their journey to Perth, Western Australia.
I left Wudinna for the second time to return home, feeling that I had been a Good Samaritan and grateful that I could help these visitors in their time of need.
I went straight to the Parish Council meeting without stopping to eat or drink but, unfortunately arrived about 30 minutes late. I tried to pick up on the discussion which was quite serious, as our minister’s wife had suffered a severe stroke which rendered her a quadriplegic, and asked the Chairman of the meeting a relevant question. He chastised me by saying “If you had been here on time you would know the answer to that question!!”
I didn’t like to ask another question and went home as soon as the meeting had finished, feeling quite deflated.
But despite the unfair chastisement, I don’t regret helping the English tourists. I would have regretted it more if I had just left them on the roadside “in the middle of nowhere”.
I love this blog! So many of us do not take the opportunity to ask questions after the fact, much less turn around and offer help in the face of doubt.
Hi Ian, I always love your honest thoughts…good story the lady with her broken-down car… That was so nice for you to stop.
As a woman I don’t stop anymore… I can’t fix anything and I’m afraid to give them a ride.
Nowadays it is dangerous and you never know if it is for real or someone is trying to rob you.
Sad – but that’s what I do nowadays.
I used to volunteer to feed the homeless many years ago.
We always prayed for them the week before the meeting. And remembered the Resurrection Power the Holy Spirit leaves inside of us.
It is not easy what to say sometimes, but if someone needed prayer we prayed for them, or if someone needed deliverance we prayed for them too.
We did the same thing as you, we fed, sang and preached small messages like God loves them (the bible says the the Word of God never returns void.)
We planted the seed or watered the seed but it is God who it makes it grow.
We also gave them a small bag of groceries.