12.01.2007

Bad Samaritan

I was riding the subway with a co-worker this week, and we got on the
subject of homelessness, and what programs and policies would best
address the needs of the homeless and of the communities in which they
are found. I happen to take a fairly contrarian view on the topic,
and was expounding to my colleague about the merits of my position,
and how it was truly the one that made the most sense in terms of
compassion for those in need.

I was in the middle of congratulating myself internally for being so
enlightened when my smugness was interrupted by the woman sitting
behind me, whose beverage spewed every which way, including my hair
and coat. I was about to turn around to see what had happened when
she unleashed a series of colorful invectives that would have made a
sailor blush. I don't wuite remember what exactly she said, but
imagine that it was something like "I can't believe I spilled my
drink," only with every other word being a cuss word. Quite frankly,
I didn't need to turn around, for simply looking forward, I saw people
facing us with bemused or bewildered looks on their face.
Accordingly, I inched forward ever so slightly.

Finally, the tension in the subway car was broken by a couple of older
women sitting across from us, who offered the cursing woman a
handkerchief as well as their sympathy that she had lost her soda. It
occurred to me that such a gesture was a small portion of what the
Good Samaritan did for the man left for dead on the side of the road
in that famous story Jesus once told. Which would make me the Levite
and priest who knew more spiritually than the Samaritan did but did
less to show it in terms of concern for their fellow man.

It certainly is easier for an educated person like me to know what is
right to do than to actually put it into practice in the messiness
that is our world. As you may know if you know the story of the Good
Samaritan, Jesus clearly instructs us not only to stop for the men
left for dead, but go out of our way in expending time and money to
assist them. And this is what I find so challenging about living in a
city: there are ample reminders of how seldom we act in such a way, as
Jesus would have us to act.

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