“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
—Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:39)
The phrase “good Samaritan” is so commonly used that it’s listed in the dictionary.
It comes from a compelling parable told by Jesus in response to a lawyers’ question, “Who is thy neighbor?”
While on a journey, a man is beaten, robbed and left by the side of the road to die. Many pass him by, including those of his own tribe, and some even go across the road to avoid him. No one offers help until a despised Samaritan stops to assist him, dresses his wounds and takes him on his donkey to a nearby town. Not only does the Samaritan secure a room and food and nurse him through the night, he pays for another two nights and offers the innkeeper extra should there be a need, before taking his leave.
Jesus asks, “Who was the good neighbor?”
Such munificence to a total stranger, and to one who might have looked down on him under other circumstances, is remarkable. The Samaritan generously treated the stranger as though he were a dear friend, and set a new standard for compassion that was passed on for more than two thousand years.
In today’s culture, given the Internet, television, and easier access to travel, the faces of our neighbors have changed. Or do we still consider “neighbors” to be the members of our church, club, social circle or geographical neighborhood? What about the objectionable person in need, who just happens to show up in our lives? Are we as apt to extend our love and compassion?
Writing my book Love is the New Currency motivated me to ask lots of questions, not only of myself, but of numerous people in all kinds of settings. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, as I engage in meaningful conversations with people, many of whom I’ve just met.
One evening at a popular local dance club, I chatted with two women, Melissa, to whom I’d recently been introduced, and her friend Bonnie. When I mentioned that I was collecting individual stories of everyday kindness, Melissa nudged her friend and said, “Tell her what you did to help that man.” Apparently, it was a story that had been shared with only her closest friends, and it took some convincing for Bonnie to tell it – with the stipulation that all names be changed.
The following story is a modern-day version of The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Saved by the Kindness of a Stranger
Have you ever done something that wasn’t part of your usual routine, but there was a prompting—a voice in your head or a feeling in your gut—you simply couldn’t ignore? It probably felt like you were being led to a person or a place for a reason. You might have been asked to participate in an event with results that were life-changing. Upon reflection, you realized this is exactly what was supposed to happen.
One morning, Bonnie decided to go out for a cup of coffee and a newspaper, something she rarely does. The local coffee shop/market was out of newspapers, but she spotted a free-standing newspaper box across the street and walked toward it.
Lying on the ground, she saw what appeared to be an elderly homeless man—filthy, disheveled and smelling so badly of urine that it was difficult to move closer to him. In fact, several people kept their distance as they walked by.
As Bonnie approached, she noticed that this man was disoriented, out of breath and barely able to move. She felt a moral obligation to help him: “I just had to. It was the only Christian thing to do.”
“It looks like you need help,” she said. He answered affirmatively. And without a second thought, she put him in her car and drove him to the nearest hospital.
Bonnie waited with him until a doctor could check him out. The doctor said, “Thank God. You’re an angel and have most likely saved his life.”
When the hospital called later to say he was ready to go home, she replied, “But I don’t even know him.” They said she was the only one they could call. What to do?
Bonnie drove back to the hospital to pick him up, with no idea of where this ride home would take her. Expecting to follow his directions to a local shelter, she was totally shocked to end up in an exclusive neighborhood. Through their conversation, she discovered that not only did Sam, a retired businessman, live in a gorgeous home, he was wealthy and used to the finer things in life. He was also lonely and coming to the realization that he couldn’t do things by himself anymore.
At 83, Sam had just flown 1,000 miles on his own, returning from a visit to his girlfriend. Upon his return, he had become disoriented and distressed, a situation probably aggravated by his heart condition and mild dementia.
Sam was so touched by Bonnie’s generosity and her unwavering determination to help him, a total stranger, that he later offered her a job as his personal assistant. And Bonnie was grateful that she could continue to make a difference in the life of the man she’d saved.
In what way have you been or would you choose to be a Good Samaritan?
What are your limits in terms of safety or your comfort zone? What would you have done if you were Bonnie?
Have you ever met someone whom you judged to be a certain way, only to realize later that you were dead wrong?
How can you do more for other in need in 2017?
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more loving, and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She recently volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts With Me,” the results of which include a website (www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children. Also visit www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter.