Thursday, February 5, 2009

Legitimate Yet Insufficient

The story is a couple of thousand years old, and, unfortunately, the lesson still hasn't been learned.

Jesus told a story about a guy who gets mugged, robbed, and left to die by the side of the road. A priest sees him, moves the other side of the road, and keeps going. Similarly a Levite, a religious official, sees the guy lying in the ditch and also crosses the double yellow line to pass by.

It's the Jerusalem/Jericho road, so the men were probably either on their way to serve in the Temple or on their way home after a lengthy stay away from family. They were either in a hurry to get to work, or tired and worn out and ready to get home to some peace and quiet.

Stopping to help would have been a hassle. It would have taken a lot of time, time they didn't have. If on their way to the Temple, touching a dead person would have rendered them unclean and caused all kinds of problems, and this guy sure looked dead.

If you had asked them why they didn't stop, they undoubtedly would have given you legitimate reasons.

Legitimate yet insufficient. A guy is lying in a ditch, naked and dying, you stop to help. Period.

It might mess up your plans and ruin your day. You stop and help.
It might get you in trouble with your boss. You stop and help.
It might cost you some money. You stop and help.
It was probably the guy's own fault. You stop and help.

We hear this story over and over and we undoubtedly think, "If it were me, I would stop and help. No way would I pass by. No way would I look the other way."

Everyone knows the story. There's is probably no one in America who hasn't heard of the Good Samaritan. We even have a law named after it, "The Good Samaritan Law," which says that you are protected from lawsuits if you stop to render aid to an injured person and unwittingly cause further injury to them (crack a rib doing CPR, for instance.) So we all know the story, and probably all think to ourselves, "I wouldn't have passed by." But the story needs to be told over and over again, because we just don't seem to be able to get it right.

Last week a guy got into an argument on 16th street in D.C., gets punched, hits the pavement, and lays motionless. Nobody who saw the fight did anything. They moved on. Other people, who didn't see the fight, just see some homeless guy, probably a drunk, sleeping off his beer binge. It's probably a sight they've seen far too many times in that area of D.C.

So they move on. A security camera catches it all. Over a twenty-minute period, 166 people pass by. It's not like they had to pick the guy up, put him on their donkey, and pay for him to stay at an inn until he recovers.

Take out your cell phone, dial 911, move on.

166 people couldn't do that. Finally, someone from a local business does and within minutes EMT's are at the scene and take the guy to the hospital.

Where he dies three days later.

I'm not saying I would have done anything better. I probably would have assumed, like most people probably did, that he was a homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk. Maybe would have whispered a prayer, then moved on.

I would have been one of the 166. And that's what bugs me.

I would have had my reasons, just like those 166 people had theirs. Good, legitimate reasons.

Legitmate, yet insufficient.

1 comment:

  1. Last night I read the VeggieTales book version of The Good Samaritan to my 5 year old and I couldn't stop thinking of him: Jose Sanchez, 31 years old, homeless, and murdered.