Our Gospel reading for the day is the story of the Good Samaritan, the most well known of Jesus’ tales. I myself have heard it dozens of times. It’s the response to the question, “Who is the neighbor I am to love as I love myself?”
Over the years I’ve pondered different aspects of the story. Today what has occurred to me is that Jesus and his little band of followers were homeless people. This got me to thinking. I asked myself, what would this story sound like if it were told by one of our street people? Here’s a guess:
A man who had something worth stealing was robbed, beaten and left half dead in a gutter. People walked by pretending not to see him. No surprise there; when you fall down you become invisible until the police come along, right? But some foreigner who didn’t even speak proper English saw him and personally helped him out. This guy got right down on his knees in the gutter, gave the guy first aid, got him to the hospital, stayed with him there, and after that found and paid for a motel room for him until he was all recovered. The foreigner didn’t want anything in return – wasn’t selling Jesus or wanting sex or anything at all. He just did it.
Who is my neighbor? The person who sees me when I’m in trouble. The one who notices me in my distress and puts his heart into helping me out, out of compassion alone.
In line at the grocery store, a woman up ahead wound up with more groceries than she could pay for. Totally ashamed, she started to set aside a few things to put back on the shelf. The man behind her had noticed and said, “I’ll pay for those.” I don’t know what gave her the grace to accept his offer. She thanked him tearfully, and he said, “I may need the same some day.”
A friend of mine noticed a woman who was ahead of her at the ATM machine return to her car empty handed, weeping. My friend walked up, knocked on the window of the car, and gave the woman $20.
Observing that water is an issue for people in other parts of the world, we might think about wastage in our own water use and make personal changes. Noticing that we are a country that uses far more than our fair share of the world’s resources, we might begin personally to use far less. Witnessing that people need certain services in order to lead fulfilling lives, we might lend a hand in providing them. Spotting injustice we might work to change laws or policies in government or agencies.
When we are in trouble we want the person who sees what is there to be seen and then responds whole heartedly. That’s our neighbor. May we each be given the grace to go and do likewise.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado