For getting the feel of the Parable of the Good Samaritan it helps if you begin with a picture of the endless twists in that road that falls 3600 feet in its seventeen mile descent from Jerusalem to Jericho. Your stomach would be in your throat as you made every hidden corner, and all those little frights would contribute to the final horror of being waylaid.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to bring up two personal incidents that had faint echos of this story.
One incident from thirty-two years ago took place when I was driving my friend Sister Larry up to her new assignment in St. Louis. Driving north through South Carolina we were worried that we had no phone to alert the people in North Carolina who were expecting us for supper.
Suddenly my Datsun got what sounded like its death rattles. We struggled up an exit ramp, and managed to get the ailing vehicle into the lot of an abandoned filling station. We were wondering about what awful things could happen to a priest and a nun stuck in the Bible Belt.
After a bit a stranger came over, suggesting that from the sound the Datsun made it had a broken down something-or-other. After we assented to letting him help, he pulled out a beautiful mobile phone, using it to make four calls. A foreign car parts place twenty-miles up the road would be open another half hour. His daughter, working nearby would get the part before they closed. A garage man would install it, and a man with a tow truck would get us there. With help from the Good Baptist it only cost thirty-seven dollars.
The other road story had me headed south on I-95 to a vacation condo south of Daytona. I pulled over to a man with a stalled U-Hall, and I took him down to the next exit ramp where he filled a gas can he had with him.
He was a Cuban refugee who had married another refugee whom he met in Miami. With him having a job in a furniture manufacturer near Boston, they had three kids, and then his wife came down with cancer. Their folks in Miami said they’d take care of her hospitalization if they could make it down there. They purchased plane tickets with what they got selling most of their stuff, then with what they couldn’t sell packed in the U-Hall, he tried to make it from Boston to Miami without spending a night in a motel.
With the gas bought, and our being back to the U-Hall, the man offered me money. When I refused, he told me he knew who I was. Even when I am in vacation cloths people often guess that I am a priest. So I asked him, “Okay, who am I?”
And he said, “Why, you are the Good Samaritan.”