“Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” That’s hard for me to say because I like to think of myself as a Good Samaritan who sees a person suffering and stops and cares for that person. When I was a child, I could never understand that priest and that Levite in the Good Samaritan Story. How could they see that wounded man and just pass by on the other side of the road? That was terrible! Back then I always identified with the “good guy“ — the Good Samaritan.
However now that I’m older and wiser I regretfully have to say that sometimes I am the person who sees or hears about someone who is going through a difficult time and “passes by on the other side of the road.”
Just last week my husband Larry and I were walking the bike path near our home. I was feeling good; I was getting some exercise and I was with my best friend. Our destination was a restaurant two miles away. The sun was shining, and the birds were singing. It was a beautiful spring day. Up ahead on the bike path I saw this person all bent over doing something, but we couldn’t quite tell what.
As we drew closer, we could see that the person had a suitcase and some plastic grocery bags stuffed with what looked to be a sleeping bag and a comforter. She was trying to tie the bags together with a shoestring and attach them to her suitcase so it would be easier to carry. She was having trouble getting all of her stuff together.
Well, I started feeling a bit uneasy because I didn’t know what to say or do. In that moment, I could identify with that priest and Levite. My more dramatic side thought perhaps it was a ploy to lure us in. Perhaps we should just walk on by.
Thankfully, I was walking with a Good Samaritan type person. Larry said to this bent-over woman, “Do you need some help?” and she mumbled something that we couldn’t hear. Larry then asked, “Where are you going?” and she answered with a small, quiet voice and pointed to a direction about three miles in the distance. I whispered to Larry, “Let’s go back and get the car.” So we did.
On the car ride, we introduced ourselves and found out that she was going to her sister’s apartment. She had already been walking at least two miles.
When reflecting on this experience I wonder if I’d been by myself, would I have stopped? Fearing that it was a “safety” issue, I probably would have hurried on by.
“Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” I can identify with Paul in Romans 7 16:19 who writes, “What I want to do, I do not. But what I hate, I do, but thanks be to God, for God forgives us and gives us another chance.”
I like the following poem by Laura Tabin. It’s about Grace about the fact that our God—our gracious God gives us a clean sheet of paper. It’s called “Questions Grace and Trembling Hands.”
I wanted things black and white.
You made me struggle, erasing things I knew
Staring at the blaring white, re-evaluating.
And you stood behind me while I worked, while my eraser crumbled
Until I scratched through the paper.
Too many mistakes.
Then, you patiently slipped a clean sheet under my trembling hand and told me to try again.
Always a clean sheet of paper.
Smudged sheets forgotten, hand on my shoulder, Grace.
Thank you, God for the clean sheet of paper.
Help us to see those individuals who suffer and stop and care.
To listen to the extended five-minute audio version click here.