Good Samaritan Reprise

Claudia Chyle Smith’s good Samaritan story
occurs outside a restroom at a MacDonald’s. Mine occurred in a hsopital parking
lot. Where did yours occur?

Claudia Chyle Smith recounts her experience with a young woman at a MacDonald’s asking for money to get home, or would it be for drugs, or …? She writes in today’s Christian Science Monitor.

Have you had a similar experience? Not knowing whether the individual was telling the truth or scamming you? Uncertain about what to do? Skeptical–and guilty? Uncomfortable with the whole thing?

My most recent experience occurred in a hospital parking lot. The guy needed money to get to Pep Boys Auto to buy a starter for his vehicle in order to get home. A close relative was in Vanderbilt Hospital but he needed to get home to care for family there. Expenses in Nashville had left him broke.

It was a plausible story. In fact, we’ve seen it played out more than once, but I’ve never been asked for money in the parking lot before. I’m always skeptical. It seems necessary for self-protection. We’re approached so often by so many panhandlers today. There are people who seem to have territorial claim on certain intersections in Nashville. They settle in especially during rush hour when traffic is heaviest.

But I almost always relent and find pocket change or a dollar bill anyway. What if they are truly in need, I think. What if this were Jesus before me? Is the small gift too large a price to pay for the lingering guilt I’ll feel if I don’t give it? And that’s the catch, isn’t it?

I didn’t give him money. In fact, I didn’t have that much on me anyway. But I kept feeling bad about it. I went about my hospital visit but I couldn’t get this fellow’s story out of my mind.

I’ve been broke and far from home. I never had the nerve to panhandle, but I know what it’s like to have no money. And I know what it’s like to be alone in a strange city. And I know what it’s like to have a loved one in a hospital in a strange city.

So I went to an ATM and got some money and went back to the parking lot. He was still there. I gave him enough for a good start to purchase a starter.

Who knows if I was scammed or not? I hope not. I hope he was legit and he will help someone in return, and in Play It Forward fashion, it will go on and on, undermining our skepticism and suspicion.

And if not, it was a small price to pay to alleviate a load of guilt.

And, beyond all of this, there’s that story,

As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be walking down the road, but when he saw the man he walked by on the other side. Later a temple helper came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side. A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.” Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?” (Luke 10:30,37)

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