God Bless the Good Samaritans, A Vanishing Breed : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan
Most people know the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus had been teaching people that they should “Love thy neighbor as thyself” so people started asking who did he consider their neighbors. Who did Jesus expect them to love. Jesus then told the story of a Jewish man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothes, robbed and wounded him, and then left him to die. As the man lay dying on the road three people passed him by over time. The first was a priest who, when he saw the man. moved to the other side of the road. Then along came a Levite who also moved to the other side of the road and passed by when he saw the injured man. Most likely these men passed by because they did not want to risk become “unclean” as both would have been required to go through an extended ritual once they came in contact with blood, To become clean again they may have had to return all the way back to where they came from and then start their journey over. But, as was the major flaw in the spirituality of the Jews of Jesus’ time, they put much more stock into maintaining regulations and observing ritual then they did into showing love. Jesus was trying to show the correct priority through the parable which ended with a Samaritan stopping to help the man. Now, Samaritans and Jews were forbidden to connect with each other in any way. That’s why it was a huge deal when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. They were forbidden to speak to each other, eat with each other and especially to touch each other. Even so, the Samaritan had compassion on the injured man and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, set him on his own donkey, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day, when the Samaritan left, he took out two pence and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.’ Reaching the end of his story, Jesus then looked at the crowd and said, now which of these three was neighbor to the man who fell among the thieves? People in the crowd answered, “He that shewed mercy on him.” Then said Jesus to them, “Go, and do thou likewise.”
In our day and age, despite all our education, religion, and supposed civility, the likely outcome of the parable would be the same. We might have different reasons for not helping but it still amounts to turning our backs on the injured man. Our concerns would be “What if he sues me?” “What if, by moving him off the road, I become responsible for a new injury?” “What if this is a trick and the injured man is just faking it and robs me?” “What is he’s got three buddies hiding nearby who are ready to jump me?” “What if he’s sick and I could get a disease from touching him?” If by some rush of sudden mercy we did take the man to a hospital, then we’d be worried about if the man had insurance? What if the hospital tried to bill us? What if the man was a fugitive and by helping him we got in trouble with the police?
And so on. They are far more reasons to not help the man than there are to help him and most of us would not be willing to take the risk. None of us would blame a woman alone for passing by or if it was late at night and this happened in a dangerous area. The truth is, the only thing most of us would do is call “911” and report the situation, but many of us would not even do that because “we don’t want to get involved.”
I understand this even though, most of my life, I’ve been a person who usually takes these kind of risks without much hesitation. I’ve stopped to help people in trouble, picked up people on the street and taken them to the hospital. Not because I’m a hero, but because that’s how I was taught. It’s the right thing to do. I’ve never been able to develop the culture of indifference that so dominated our society. A strange example is that one time in my mid 20’s I saw a car parked in a shopping center lot billowing smoke from inside. There was a large crowd of people standing around watching and I asked, “Is anyone in there.” A bunch of people answered. “We don’t know.” It was one of those moments where God clearly tells me I have to do something I don’t want to do. So I wrapped my hand in my jacket, walked slowly and cautiously to the car, pulled open the door and dropped to the ground. There was no one inside. I got back up and walked back to my car. I think a few people even applauded. Moments later the police and an ambulance arrived and I went on my way.
The point is that this was not an act of great bravery. This was just common decency. This is what you do. You see a car fly off the road and hit a tree, you stop and see about the people inside. I’m not saying you dive into a fiery inferno or put your family at risk to check on a total stranger. I’m just saying you don’t automatically write things like this off. You at least do what you can do. Maybe that is only call 911 but you’d be surprised how many people wouldn’t even do that.
We live in a dangerous world, but we like to pretend that it’s not that way. that’s one of the reasons we tend to look the other way when there is trouble. Here are a few stories of people who didn’t. Good Samaritans. There are fewer and fewer of them around.
Charles Kwuelum grew up in Nigeria and became a priest there in 2004. Nigeria has a population of 170 million, of which Muslims make up fifty percent and Christians forty percent. Charles realized the severe tensions between these groups and decided he would try to promote peace between them whenever he had the opportunity. One of the tools Charles used to bring the community together was sports. He would gather the community’s children, irrespective of their religion, and provide them with footballs, volleyballs, and a place to play. It was only a matter of time before they were playing together and the community elders warmed to each other. Charles mediated between Muslims and Christians to help them resolve their issues. One night on his way home, a tire burst on the car Charles was driving causing the vehicle to flip over several times and leave him pinned inside. He was injured and had no way to call for help. Along came an elderly Muslim man on his bicycle heading home after a long day’s work. This man sold meat in the town market and recognized Charles from there.
With great difficulty, the old man pried open the door and pulled Charles out of the car. When he realized that he couldn’t help Charles by himself, he rushed back to the village and told people in the Christian community what happened and brought others to help Charles. He crossed the invisible line between Christians and Muslims to do it. This action triggered change. “For this person to have rendered assistance and gone back to communicate with my community meant there was a breakthrough…It would’ve been unlikely before,” Charles explained.
Then there’s the story of Muslim Hassan Askari, who while riding the Q train into Brooklyn one Friday night noticed ten thugs hassling a young couple for replying ‘Happy Chanukah’ when greeted with ‘Merry Christmas’. Fearing for the woman’s safety, he pushed one thug away, and the gang pounced on the 5’ 7”, 140 lb. hero. This gave the two victims time to pull the subway’s emergency brake and summon help. Askari received two black eyes and a sore nose for his efforts, but never went to a doctor because he worked two jobs and couldn’t afford medical care. Victim Walter Adler (who received a broken nose and required four stitches for a split lip) was shocked that “a random Muslim kid helped some Jewish kids, (and) that’s what’s positive about New York”.
Here’s a strange one which involves the tallest man in the world. Bao Xishuan is described as such by the Guinness Book of Records and he is 7ft, 8.95 inches tall. His arm extends to 1.06 meters. Back in 2006, the Mongolian herdsman got the call from Chinese vets that he was urgently needed at the Funshun aquarium. Doctors there had not been able to remove painful plastic shards that two dolphins had swallowed, and the animals were slowly starving. None of the surgical instruments they had tried were able to remove the fragments. Once Mr. Bao arrived at the aquarium, workers pried the animals’ jaws open with towels so he wouldn’t be bitten and Bao reached deep into the animals’ stomachs and removed as many shards as he could find. The fragments he couldn’t reach were safely digested and the dolphins made a full recovery.
Sometimes, it costs a lot to help people. On April 18, 2010, Guatemalan immigrant Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax saw a woman being threatened by a man wielding a knife. He jumped in and saved the woman but was stabbed by the attacker. He died on the street in Queens, New York. The woman and the attacker fled in different directions while he lay bleeding. Video surveillance caught the story on film. It showed that one man stopped to photograph Tale-Yax with a cell phone. Eighteen other people saw or walked right past him. Not a single one of them tried to help him or even contacted authorities. The closest anyone came to helping was a man who shook the body vigorously, but walked away after seeing the pool of blood. Firefighters arrived fifteen minutes later, but by then it was too late.
Here was a man who gave up his life to help someone and died because no one would even bother to call 911 for him. They say you don’t really know the kind of person you are until to find yourself in a crisis situation. I think we all need to pray that if the occasion arises, we can rise to meet it. Don’t worry. You can be a good Samaritan without risking your life. In fact, in most cases, all you’ll be risking is a little time or inconvenience. Running away from a bad situation doesn’t make it go away. Just make the call. There aren’t many Good Samaritans left in this dark world. May God Bless every one of them. Including you.