Good Samaritans in the New Age

“‘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

good-samaritan-childrens-Bible-storyI’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.

5e86ac08b8439fcc6ad90f2939b36cbdBut 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.

Sam

“Shared” Experience

first-date-at-cafe“That which we call shared experience is never truly shared. We see the world through a lens constructed from individual prior knowledge, and therefore it colors even those times when we are not alone.” ~Theodicus

I love that saying about there being three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. But that statement is inherently incorrect at its core. The truth is always shaded by personal experience, and your truth is not mine, but does that make yours any less valid than mine?

A boy and his father went fishing at the lake one summer day. They caught three fish and drove back home in silence. To the father it was a companionable silence born from a bonding experience between the two. But to the boy the silence was fraught with accusation because he knew his father’s expectations, and he felt like he had messed up several times that day. They had gone through a “shared” experience, but each of them took something different away from it.

That can be both a blessing and a curse, though, having an experience that cannot ever truly be shared. It’s a blessing because even if one of you takes it as a negative, you can see the positives in it. It’s a curse because no matter how special the experience might be to you it could be unsatisfactory to the other person involved.

Jessica and Tommy went out on a date tonight. They had dinner at a nice Italian place, saw the latest romantic comedy, and he walked her to her apartment. They kissed goodnight and he started walking home, analyzing the date as he went. It ended with a kiss, so he figured the night went well. Jessica closes the door and hopes he doesn’t call because to her the date was a disaster. The goodnight kiss, to her, was a kiss goodbye. They had the same experience, and did the exact same things, but they reached entirely different conclusions based on that “shared” evidence.

Truth is variable. The truth in every situation is a fluid construct, shifting to accommodate individual thoughts and previous experiences. But can we still enjoy these shared experiences? Definitely. We just need to be honest with each other instead of trying to spare feelings, or assuming that the other person feels the same about the experience that we do. It all starts with communication, just like everything else, with a real sharing of ideas and feelings. That’s what can transform those “shared” experiences into actual mile markers on our road to understanding each other.

Sam

The Sharing Game

children-sharing-sweetsDo you remember the Barney catchphrase, “Sharing is Caring!” and how he used to always espouse the joys you can get from not being selfish? Well, all of that was just an extension of your mother telling you that it’s always good to help out others who may not have what you have. And you know in the back of your head you were probably saying something like, “But it’s mine!” Well, I feel your pain, but perhaps your mother did have a point.

When I was a kid we lived at the end of a block of rowhouses in Southwest Philadelphia. Now, a rowhouse could have been seen as a detriment since the walls were so thin and were all connected, but my mother used the situation as an opportunity to teach a value lesson. She said that since our walls were “shared” we could share other things as well. I guess it was an attempt at helping to make a closer knit community in the middle of what was a depressed area.

And share we did, but it worked both ways. That’s the glory of sharing. Instead of being covetous of what someone else had, we took turns having it all. But in order to truly share you need two or more people who can understand the bigger picture. That’s why so many kids can’t share effectively without getting angry, possessive, or suddenly unsure about what taking turns really means. Continue reading “The Sharing Game”

The Friend Relevance

“If you wish to truly know someone, do not ask him about himself. Instead, ask his friends about him. You are sure to get a much clearer picture that way.” -Theodicus

Have you noticed that when there’s a serial killer who has recently been exposed, the news goes to his neighborhood and speaks to the neighbors, who all talk about how they had no idea, how he seemed like such a normal guy? Of course they say this, because serial killers know something a lot of us forget. If you have a lot of acquaintances, you can make yourself invisible among them, but if you have even a few true friends, you are never invisible. These neighbors only have contact with the serial killer in the light of day, when they can shrug off any suspicious behavior because they have too much going on in their own lives to take a moment to notice. This is why the serial killer has the “serial” prefix to his name. He was too smart for too long, not letting anyone in. Because friends, true friends, they know you better than you know yourself.

We often delude ourselves with what we wish we had done, what we hope to be, and what we strive for in this life, instead of recognizing ourselves for who we actually are. This makes us readily susceptible to making the wrong decisions, and to trusting the wrong conclusions. It is a slippery slope that leads us nowhere good if we don’t have a solid core of friends to keep us honest. These are the people who have seen us laugh, been with us when we cried, kept us out of trouble, and shared our pain. And we have done the same for them, which creates a bond that is thicker than ink. If we do something out of character or something that could be a mistake, they are there to help us reconsider, to save us from ourselves.

I remember when I was 19 and I had a group of friends I met through my college job. We worked together, ate together, drank together, hung out together, spent more time with each other than we did with our own families. We stuck with each other despite knowing each other. One of my friends had a drinking problem, and we worked through it as a group. The same was true of another who had issues with smoking pot. And I was the classic rebel partier, the one who had really no boundaries, the one who rebelled due to a sheltered childhood, and who could have really gone to a place of no return if not for them. We helped each other through difficulty after difficulty, which made us stronger individually and as a group. It may sound cliche, but it’s very true. I knew they had my back because they had seen me at my worst and still cared for me.

The problem is finding friends like that, because there are too many people out there who are fair-weather friends. You find out who your real friends are when you go through those difficult times. If they’re there for you and they don’t run the other way, or find convenient ways to avoid you, they’re not people you can count on. That’s why bad times are important to go through and get past. They give you a good gauge of who your true friends are, and they also weed out the poseurs. I think TLC said it best when they sang, “Goodbye goodbye, to all the fake people in my life. I never wanted you around me so be on your way now.”

Also, don’t forget to talk to your friends. Don’t be so insular that you become little more than a shadow. Take advantage of times to get together with your friends. They honestly can keep you sane. But don’t just use your time with friends as “bitch” sessions. While they’re good listeners, if they’re always listening to you complain, what do they get out of the friendship? You need to listen to them too, to share both the good and the bad in both of your lives.

After all, if you create that firm network of friends, it also protects you from becoming a serial killer. And that’s good enough for me.

Sam

The Friendship Archive

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