Why We Need Good Samaritans

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In my life, God has repeatedly demonstrated to me how important it is that everyone knows that each of us can help another person. In “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” Jesus clearly reveals the significance of the actions any of us can make if we are willing to take the time, step outside our own comfort zones and put forth personal effort to provide aid to another. Opportunities to help others happens all the time if we simply pay attention to what is happening all around us.

One such opportunity took place on August 21, 2016, when an officer in Yoba City (California) responded to a vehicle accident. When the officer contacted the men that were attempting to flee the scene of the accident, he was viciously attacked by both men in the physical struggle that ensued. As the officer was fighting for his life, one of the assailants gained control of the officer’s baton and “began striking the officer in the head with it”. It was at this moment a bystander intervened, disregarding his own safety to do the right thing. The Good Samaritan pushed the assailant off of the officer and fought with him until additional officers were able to respond.[1]

Another example occurred in Cleveland (Ohio) on May 6, 2013. On this days neighbors responded to the cries of a woman from a house she had been held hostage in for ten years. After these Good Samaritans helped free this woman and her daughter from the house, the police would find two more women that had been abducted and held in the home since 2002 and 2004, respectively. During their captivity these women had been repeatedly raped and beaten by their abductor. If these Good Samaritans had not responded to the cries for help on that fateful day, not only may these women and the little girl continued to be tormented, their abductor would have remained free to victimize other young women.

It does not take great risks to be a Good Samaritan, as even a simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the life of someone else. Today I read another story where a family with a young child was stranded on side of a busy road when their vehicle broke down. The family remained in their vehicle all night with the hood up and hazards on without anyone stopping to offer assistance or even calling 9-1-1. It would be early the next morning before a courtesy patrol vehicle would stop and offer them assistance. This frightening ordeal could have easily ended tragically. Sadly, no one traveling the road was willing to take the time to help, they were either too busy to notice or too afraid to get involved.

There are simply so many amazing opportunity each of us has to get involved and make an important difference in the life of another. It is this point that I passionately hope that I am able to convey. It is far too often that we fail to act on this lesson emphasized by Jesus in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. Whether we decide it is not our place to get involved or we simply believe we are to busy to stop and help, time and again people in our society ignore the opportunities to get involved. Instead they simply make the choice to leave it up to someone else to address the problem.

It is in Luke 10:25-37, that Jesus reminds us first of “The Most Important Commandment” followed by the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” to emphasize the importance for each of us to to get involved when given the opportunity. As so often is the case, this message is as applicable to non-Christians as it is to Christians:

The Most Important Commandment:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In his book “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states:

“You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan told by our Lord in response to the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritians and were their bitter enemies. However, our Lord tells us in the parable that when the Jew was attacked by thieves and robbers on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, several Jews passed by and did not help him. But the Samaritain, the traditional enemy, went across the road and cared for him and did everything for him. That is loving our neighbour and our enemy. Who is my neighbour? Any man who is in need, any man who is down through sin or anything else. We must help him, whether he is a Jew or a Samaritain. Love your neighbour, even if it means loving your enemy. ‘Do good to them that hate you.’ And our Lord, of course, not only taught it, but He did it” [2]

The Apostle Paul echoes this theme in Romans 15:1-7:

 Romans 15:1-7: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”[3]

After Dad was executed in the Line-of-Duty, there were witnesses that came forward and admitted they had observed two men struggle with dad after he had stopped to help them. The witnesses did not initially do anything as they did not want to get involved. As in the case in Yoba City, Dad may have lived if these witnesses immediately called the police. Yet, they will never know if they could have made a difference. What they do know is that they did nothing and as the result a patrolman was brutally murdered.

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Conversely, Good Samaritans like my uncle, my high school counselor, and many others would prove to be critical to my ability to overcoming both the cold blooded murder of my dad as well as the events that took place when I was a freshman in high school. It was the willingness of these Good Samaritans to take time out of their busy lives to provide the support I needed which helped me become a survivor. Without this support, I would never have found my way back to the road I was meant to travel. The impact these Good Samaritans and my dad had on my life, along with the inaction of the witnesses of the abduction of my dad, would have a profound influence on the choices I would make the rest of my life.

As a result, I decided after I returned from Alaska, I never again wanted to come that close to quitting or giving into my fears again. I may make some mistakes along the way, which I have many times, yet I never again wanted to be afraid to face my fears. You just never know when you might do something that has a dramatic impact on someone’s life, including your own. You might even save a life. Doing nothing, especially if it is due to fear, has not been a option in my life ever since I was able to come to terms with my greatest fear, the fear I faced as a freshman in high school, when I failed to face my peers after becoming overwhelmed with years of repressed emotions.

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This approach to life is permeated with the potential of risk, yet I face the same risks if I choose to do nothing. In the film, The Patriot, there is a decisive moment when the main character Benjamin Martin states, “I have done nothing. And for that I am ashamed.”[4] It is this sentiment that I strive to avoid as it gives me a sick feeling in my gut whenever I think of the consequences of doing nothing. I believe God gives us opportunities by placing us in situations for a reason, and I believe that reason is seldom ever to do nothing. As a result, I have chosen to do my best to live my life and to tell my story with the hope it will do more good than harm.

God bless!

 

[1] “Yuba City Officer Beaten While Investigating Accident”. Chicoer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1976, pg 272.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film depicts the fictional patriotic character of Benjamin Martin which was a composite figure loosely based on American Revolutionary War heroes Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

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Understanding Myself

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The American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, claimed “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” I had certainly reached a point that I was lost, yet it would take years for me to come to understand how I had come to be lost. Although I did not know it at the time, I now can see that by leaving me no other option God was guiding me back to the path He had meant for me to take all along. It was at this point I began the process of “understanding myself” as I slowly came to realize the tenacity I had been born with would allow me to obtain my full potential or lead to my own demise. The choice was mine, I could make my own path or I could accept the guidance and unconditional love Christ had promised.

As a teenage boy without a father, Mom felt that it was important that I spend as much time with her brother as possible. My uncle and dad had been like brothers, and our families had spent a great deal of time together. My uncle’s oldest son was only a year younger than I was and our bond would develop over time to be more like brothers than cousins. My uncle was the perfect role model for me, perfect for anyone, and to this day I realize how fortunate I was to have my uncle make himself available to me, to be my Good Samaritan! Just as God would always be there for me, I have come to recognize that I could always rely on my uncle to be there for me.

A short time before dad was murdered, my uncle received a promotion and relocated his family to Southeastern Alaska. By my freshman year, I had spent a portion of several summers in Alaska with my uncle and his family. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than to be on a boat fishing for salmon with my uncle in Alaska. For me Alaska was a huge wondrous playground. While fishing I could watch bald eagles, humpback whales, and pods of orca (killer whales). On land as I hiked along paths and trails, I could watch salmon spawning in the streams, watch ice calving (breaking and falling) from a glacier, pick wild berries, and even get to see a bear from time to time. Amazingly, my cousin and I once even backpacked to an island at low tide so my uncle could pick us up with his boat at high tide the next day. Alaska was simply one of the most beautiful places I had ever experienced. I loved Alaska, loved to fish, and most of all loved spending time with my uncle and his family!

I do not remember it, yet Mom has reminded me that after I had stopped going to school during my freshman year (see blog posts: Avoiding the Darkness and the The Road Less Traveled) my uncle flew down from Alaska just to see if he could help me work things out so I could get back in school. I can only assume I have repressed this memory too as it simply has proven to be too painful for me to fully acknowledge this failure to my uncle.

After talking to me, my uncle thought if he drove me to school I would be fine. As my uncle was driving me to school it became quite clear to him that I was not ready to return to school so he changed course. Instead of driving me to school, my uncle drove around with me for several hours in one of the nearby scenic national parks. Although I have no recollection of what was said, as I look back on this today I have no doubt God was involved as this would prove to be another strand in the unbreakable bond of the faith God has instilled between my uncle and me. Just as God had proven to me that He was always there that day I threw the rock, I have come to know I can always count on my uncle to be there for me in good times, tough times, and all the times in between.

Just as the profit Isaiah said in Isaiah 41:10:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”[1]

As my mom gently pressed me to return to school, I realized the only way to convince her I could handle things myself was for me to start taking my first steps, retracing my way back down the road I had traveled. This gentle pressure forced me to overcome my fear of another misstep that would again lead into this same darkness I had narrowly avoided. Thus, I carefully started retracing my first few steps back down the road I had traveled. Interestingly, my reaction was similar to an example provided in the study “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking” conducted by Dr. Addis and Dr. Mahalik:

“…if the same man is unable to solve the problem on his own, he may choose to see a counselor and characterize his choice as one of taking control or not letting the problem beat him. In doing so, he simultaneously supports the norm of emotional control while seeking help and constructing masculinity as a competition with one’s emotional self.”[2]

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In my case, I agreed to work with my school academic counselor that graciously offered to helped me determine the correspondence courses I was required to complete to move forward to my sophomore year in high school. It was in this way “I” would take the first steps to prove to my mom that I was “taking control” and “not letting the problem beat” me. Ironically, it would be the same stubborn resolve that led me down the wrong road in the first place that would push me to take the first few steps back in the right direction. It would be these first few steps that would help me avoid dropping out of school. All thanks to the loving push from my mom, as she provided her loving patient support.

As I meticulously worked to remain in school, my uncle had received another promotion, so that following summer he was to report to his new post in Washington, DC. As a result, arrangements were made to send me up to Alaska to spend one last summer with my uncle under the pretext that he needed someone to ride along with him as he drove his truck with his camper to Colorado to store it before proceeding on to his new post. As Alaska was a world away from whatever had happened at my school, I was more than willing to go and spend a last few weeks with my uncle in Alaska and then keep him company as he drove his camper down to Colorado.

Arriving in Alaska did not magically resolve all the issues I was facing. I still could not see the road I was meant to take. As I moved back down the road I was never meant to take, I was moving slow and deliberately, taking small careful steps to avoid another misstep. Honestly, I did not even know what I was looking for, as I still did not understand where I had made the mistakes as I was still trying to do things on my own. Nonetheless, it was a relief to be in a place that was a world away from my school and my peers. Although I know my uncle and aunt knew I had had trouble with school, I do not recall anyone saying a word about it. As it had been during my other summer trips, I was treated as if I was another son, just another member of the family, with chores just like my cousin, and the same unconditional love as if I was one of their own.

Alaska was far from home and would provide me the time and space essential for me to continue to work my way back to the road I was meant to be on. It was the loving support I received from my uncle and his family that would be key to God guiding me back to a road that did not lead into the darkness. The key for me was removing me from the situation as it allowed me to see life without the cloud of the embarrassment I felt from not being able to stand up to my fears. As I realized I was being treated just as I had been before, just like any other member of the family, my vision began to clear. I started to gain a new fresh perspective, I began to realized my life had not been ruined, I was still loved as much after my perceived failure as I had been before.

With the gift of time, I can now look back and see what God was doing in my life. I was still working my way through the fog that clouds our judgment when we have taken the wrong road, the road that leads to the evil trap that lies in the darkness. The fog is there to block out the light, to prevent us from seeing we are not alone, that all is not lost, that there is still hope. Hope is the light that cuts through the fog, that helps us realize we are not alone, that there are always other options. I now understand that Jesus was the source of my hope as He remained at my side patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. Although I had never lost my faith, I had turned away from Christ which would make my journey back to the road I was meant to take all the more difficult. As I tenaciously refused to ask for any help, choosing instead to make it on my own, I still had not fully understood the message of Christ.

As it asserts in the Gospel of John 15:4-8:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit…”[3]

Thankfully, God had afforded me the opportunity, time, and the support to learn a critical lesson in life. I had been forced to face the embarrassment of my failure to face my fear in an extremely public manner that include all of my friends and family. Yet, God had instilled in me the intuition to stop before I stepped into the evil trap that was hidden in the darkness down the road I was traveling. Even though I was not focused on Him at the time, God remained with me and helped me rediscover the endless inner strength my positive memories of dad God had preserved for me. With a push from my mom, God had helped me harness the intense desire never to let anything beat me, including the fierce resolve never to come that close to quitting anything again in my life. Through my uncle, God revealed and clarified the essence of unconditional love God had given me as represented by the loving support I would always have from family.

God bless!

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[1] New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Addis, Michael E., and James R. Mahalik. 2003. “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking.”. American Psychologist 58 (1): 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.58.1.5.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.