Saturday, September 17, 2011

on being a good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan, by Vincent Van Gogh

I was on the train today, and standing across from me was this lady whose skin was a darkish red from what appeared to be some sort of horribly severe dermatitis. She was apparently afflicted from head to toe; any visible skin looked raw and rough, and was covered with pebble-like lumps of various sizes, some almost as large as a marshmallow. Some of these lumps were also in awkward areas, like in the crook of the elbow, and on the edge of the eyelid.

My heart felt so heavy for her, she looked so tired and sad. I wondered how she made a living, what kind of home she had, if she had any family, if anyone looked after her or cared about her. It was obvious she wasn't very well-off; her clothes and accessories were of the meanest sort, nor could I say how old she was, she could have been in her 40s, 50s or 60s.

However, it did not take much to guess that she did not have a happy or easy life, and I kept wracking my brains on how I could be a blessing to her. I thought I couldn't very well just hand her some money, or ask her if she would come have dinner with me; the thing is, she wasn't right next to me -- she was about three and a half feet away -- so going over to her would have been a deliberate, conspicuous action. I thought she might well feel insulted, or think I was some creepy person out to take advantage of her.

Finally the only thing I could think to do for her was to pray. So there and then, I closed my eyes and started praying for her. I prayed that God would comfort her and strengthen her, and bring people into her life who would be of practical assistance to her in her everyday life. Then I asked God, if it be His will, to open the way for my being of some practical help to her.

I felt then that I should not try pressing money or myself on her, but instead to smile. If she smiled back, I could then start a conversation and get her to be more at ease with me. So I smiled.

And she just glared back at me.

In fact, she looked so suspicious that I immediately turned to look out the window in an effort to assure her I was not trying to be funny in any way. A little while later I turned back and tried smiling at her again.

Well, she was not going to smile at me.

A few minutes later, she got off, and I saw her standing on the platform, looking about her as if she were lost. Then she started shuffling off, in what seemed to be the wrong direction. The train moved off and that was it. I didn't get to help her in any concrete way (well yes, I know prayer is powerful, but I would have liked to be of some material use right there and then).

I kept wondering if I should have just risked it and given her some money, or at least started a conversation. But the mere thought of humiliating her, or her getting indignant with me was just too much. I didn't know how I would be able to handle her outrage or her suspicion, when I'm not the most socially adept person even under the best circumstances. But should it have mattered?

Every so often I see people begging in the streets, old people or people with disabilities, and I put money in their boxes. But there are lots of other people everywhere who aren't obviously begging who would appreciate our help just as much -- yes , money sometimes, but also our time and our exertions, words of encouragement or support, a listening ear, a shoulder.

There really are so many needy people around us whom we overlook, are too busy for, who never get any help or attention. And we don't need to look far -- they could
be at our workplace, on our bus routes, at that coffee house we like so much, perhaps even in our own families.

"And then a certain lawyer arose to try (test, tempt) Him, saying, Teacher, what am I to do to inherit everlasting life [that is, to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah's kingdom]?

Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?

And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God].

And he, determined to acquit himself of reproach, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

Jesus, taking him up, replied, A certain man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him of his clothes and belongings and beat him and went their way, [unconcernedly] leaving him half dead, as it happened.

Now by coincidence a certain priest was going down along that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

A Levite likewise came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road].

But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled along, came down to where he was; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity and sympathy [for him],

And went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on [them] oil and wine. Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

And the next day he took out two denarii [two day's wages] and gave [them] to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return.

Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?

He answered, The one who showed pity and mercy to him. And Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37).

The Samaritan was busy, he had other things to do, yet he put himself out for the stranger, he went out of his way, he even told the landlord, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return". If we truly, sincerely want to be of help, of service, to others, we can, somehow, make it happen.

Looking back, I think I could have followed that lady off the train. The kids were with me, but they could have come too. At the worst, she might have ranted at me and stalked off, or perhaps just fled, but it would have been on the quiet platform, not in front of everyone in the train.

And that would have been the worst case scenario. It might not have been so. Away from all those curious eyes, she might have opened up to me, she might have told me what she needed, or at least hinted at it, and I could have tactfully offered my assistance. I could have, somehow, made it happen.

Well, I shall certainly take it as a lesson. And perhaps, taking that same train home another day, I might see her again. And perhaps this time, recognising me from before, she might smile at me a little.

"What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]?

If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day,

And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?

So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead)" (James 2:14-17).


Lindsey A. Turner said...

What a lovely story! I think you did just the right thing! To offer her money could have been offensive. Maybe God will even have you cross paths again and maybe then you could ask her if you can pray for her then. I have excema just on my hands and it makes me self conscious. I can't even imagine what she is going through. Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog, Thrift and Shout! It is always nice to come across other bloggers who are believers!

Lindsey Turner

Dawn said...

Janice darling, it is late and I am reading this great post with one eye open but it is such a great read and so interesting that I had to finish. Really great post and you did the right thing by praying...I would have done the same thing. You have a heart for people...just a beautiful heart. Dawn Suitcase Vignettes xo

my thrifty closet said...

thanks for sharing this story, You've already blessed her by praying for her, I would have done the same too. Very often this is the best that we could do for a stranger. You were very kind to want to show love to this woman. I love this painting by Vincent Van gogh, This is not a popular picture of his that we always see but it's beautiful!



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