The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall 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 he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
“He went to him…” What does that expression mean to you? When hear those words what images come to your imagination?
I am not a fixer. I don’t really enjoy being the one who “bandages the wounds”. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty but I prefer offering support in ways that allow the other to play some part in lifting her/himself up. I like the Gospels that reference Jesus telling the man who is broken “take up your mat and walk.” I am also cautious about relationships where I as caregiver am working harder for someone than that person is working to heal himself.
I know good Christians who love to “rescue” others, practically take them home to “make them better”. I have never been this kind of helper. I want to do my part, I try never to walk by, I make myself available do everything I can imagine to find ways to offer healing to the other. But I feel the other needs dignity and agency in these interactions, I want the other to feel s/he has participated in the healing.
I am not a fixer but I do like consistency and I will ask the other “what bring healing to you?” Once the other has identified what s/he needs to feel healing I will remember that and do my best to be considerate of this stated ask. Sometimes I run into difficulty because the other will tell me what s/he needs and I will offer this and still the other seems distressed. I am confused. Friends tell me I overestimate the cognitive ability of the other to discern what s/he needs to be healed and underestimate the emotional need underneath the words. I tend to be more attentive to the words than the feelings under them. Still I do think words are important and we do need to respect a stated desire for healing.
“I just want to be left alone and be at peace for a while”. I have heard these words and thus I follow suit, moreover I will be offer “crowd-control” and steer others away as well. But then I will see the other approaching people, seeking them out and wonder what happened to the stated need.
That is my challenge as I see the one in the ditch. As I shared above many in the helping vocations have different challenges, some have a need to be needed, to be in control, to be the advice giver. I respect this approach but it is not mine and I do know this too can be problematic, creating dependency, a not altogether unwanted outcome for some helpers.
The story of the Good Samaritan is about the contrast between indifference and compassion but it does not get at the more thorny issue of how compassion is made manifest in a helping situation. We all bring our own assumptions and concerns to this scenario, being self-aware and listening to others can be a blessing as we are in the midst of care. Prayer helps too!