The day is cold with a biting bitter wind.
I pull my hat down over my ears and rush to keep up with my family. This is our first visit to New York city, and feeling out of place, I stop to look at the display in a store window. I admire the glitz of sleek, empty-eyed mannequins dressed in the posh style of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Cars honk as a sidewalk musician belts out the familiar tune of Amazing Grace. The sounds of the city fill my ears.
I barely notice the blind man standing on the street corner.
Even with a brief glimpse, there is no mistaking his plight. With a white cane in one bare hand and a red plastic cup in the other, he holds out hope for the kindness of strangers. His unseeing eyes are white, scarred with an unknown story. In the bustle, someone accidentally bumps his outstretched hand and the coins scatter on the pavement.
The blind man cries out with a desperate frustration that pierces my heart. It is the sound of misery. I bend down, back to the passing crowd, and pick up coins as the man’s rough, bare hands grope along the cold concrete. Helping him up, I add a few bills to the cup and say a few awkward words. I don’t even know what I said.
People pass by, one after another. Turning, I walk away, uncomfortable in the knowing that I haven’t done much to help this man. Who is he? Where does he sleep? How does he survive, blind on the frantic streets of New York?
Later, I tell myself I should have given the man my gloves. A small kindness in a cold world. A little love to warm his hands.
But the moment is gone.
But a Samaritan.
“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him” (Luke 10:33-34).
Those listening to the story would bristle with surprise that the Samaritan is the hero to help the beaten man on the side of the road. According to the bias of prejudice, the Samaritan would be the least likely one to help. The least expected one to do the good thing, the right thing. What would this Samaritan know about loving God and loving neighbors?
In this simple story, Jesus flips expectations upside down. The pious are heartless and the sinners respond with kindness. What a gut-wrenching challenge to all of us who claim to love God.
Where am I in this story? Where are you?
I remember how quickly I walked away from the blind man shivering on a cold street corner. Is my tendency to be the religious one who bypasses the needs of my neighbor? On my best days, I want to follow the example of the Samaritan. But do I?
Will we love our neighbor?
The Samaritan loves with actions.
- He sees.
- He feels compassion.
- He comes—he is present and involved.
- He helps—he bandages the wounds.
- He gives—he provides care for the man and generously pays the bill for his needs.
See, feel, come, help, and give—these are the actions of loving our neighbor. In the complexity of this world filled with the hurting and the broken, it is a hard call to love strangers as neighbors. Suspicion jades our good inclinations and busyness clouds our judgement.
Join me for the other posts in a brief series: