“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” ~Luke 10:36-37
I’ve always loved the parable of the Good Samaritan, where two citizens high up in the society pass right by this poor man who has just been robbed and left for dead by the side of the road. Then a lowly Samaritan stops and takes pity on the downtrodden man, nursing him back to health, and even getting him a place to stay while he recovers. The lesson is plain: every man is your neighbor, no matter where he is from, what he looks like, or how different his idea of god may be from yours.
But how are we at following that simple lesson today? When was the last time you truly did something for someone else without expecting something in return, and it wasn’t a holiday, or their birthday? It’s gotten so that we truly marvel anymore at someone who does do that, so much so that we’ve created a term for it, called “Paying it forward.”
“Paying it forward” means doing something good for another person because someone else did something good for you and expected nothing in return. For example, a friend of mine was a dollar short toward getting her coffee at Starbucks, and the gentleman in line behind her generously paid. The next day she bought a bagel for a complete stranger at Dunkin Donuts because he looked hungry. She “paid it forward,” the generosity that was shown to her.
Somehow, though, I don’t see this as being a Good Samaritan, as doing our part for our fellow man (and woman). It’s just another way of expecting something in return because the term implies that we’re taking part in this give and take, even if the person who gave to us isn’t the same person who eventually takes from us. It’s interesting to me how that happens, how rare true spontaneous gestures really are. Or maybe that’s just the way things are now. Instead of dusty roads with beaten and robbed strangers to take care of, we have smaller ways we help others out every day.
But then I looked in my Facebook newsfeed and I was reminded of something I had somehow allowed myself to forget. I have an old friend who was truly debating whether or not she should travel to a war-ravaged country to be of any possible assistance. She’s done this before, and I know she’ll do it again, even though it’s a huge risk to her own safety, simply because she feels a pull to help others in need, wherever they are in need. These souls are few and far between, but their glow could light up an arena. These are the real Good Samaritans in this New Age, unconcerned with the past, focused on what can help right now, and on what can help in the future, and DOING IT.
And I envy them because I know I will never do that. I just can’t bring myself to go beyond my comfort zone for people I don’t know, and if it makes me a selfish person then I guess I am, but I can send money, and prayers, and I do. But I always feel that it’s never enough, that it can never BE enough because there is so much that needs to be done, and so many people who need to be helped. But my friend, she is making a difference, and every single instance is important to those people who live there and are affected personally by her and by her mission.
Because while this is a new age some things remain the same. Have mercy on others. Go and do likewise.