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Dissent, manners and the Good Samaritan

By Jefferson Weaver

Had she been any more grateful for the simple little thing I did, the lady would have embarrassed me.

I promised not to use her name, so I won’t; she had a problem and didn’t know where to turn. It took me but a moment to find the telephone number and name she needed, and I asked her to call me back if that didn’t work out, so I could see what else I could do to possibly help.

A day or so before, the young man in the store stopped what he was doing when he noticed me struggling to balance a bag of critter feed whilst favoring my gimpy leg. He was dashing over to help me load up when I finally got the bag on my cart.

“You sure you’re okay?” he asked. I thanked him and assured him I was.

A short time later, I ran into another friend whose family has had more than its share of medical problems of late. I asked how they were, and did so sincerely. She was more than willing to share, because she knew my concern was real.

And yet a few days before that, I had the chance to pray with a lady who was checking on her daughter’s latest tragic misadventure. The poor misguided woman recognized me and came over to introduce herself. We ended up praying in the parking lot.

I do not relate these things to boast, by any means; it’s just reassuring, when there is so much meanness in the world, to see and do something nice for someone, with no expectation of any repayment.

I dislike cutesy cliches like “paying it forward”, a term I think was coined primarily to draw attention to one self via social media. We used to call that being a decent, well-mannered human being. When someone is hurting, we need to be willing to help fix that hurt, no matter how little it may be.

Our preacher touched on this Sunday in his sermon. All of us have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan more times than we can remember. Brother Kincy reminded us that while we likely do not have the ability to physically heal folks, we certainly can assuage the hurt.

Kincy pointed out that those from whom society should have expected the best gave only their worst, yet one who was despised gave up his own ride, cared for the wounded traveler, and made arrangements for him to be housed and fed while he recovered. Basically, the Samaritan practiced healing.

It embarrasses me to think of the number of times someone has done something nice for me, just to be nice. Due to the nature of my business, I have to be careful about the motivations of some of those folks, but those kind acts that smell of political fish are easily handled with a firm but polite “No, but thank you” if someone purchasing my lunch has a political motivation in mind.

It really doesn’t take that much effort to be nice. I was in a family-owned restaurant once on a Sunday when the crowds overwhelmed the mother, father, son and daughter-in-law who made up the entire staff.   It warmed my heart when several diners who obviously knew the struggling restaurateurs began busing tables, taking orders, refilling drinks and washing dishes.

The effort doesn’t have to be something so dramatic; simply holding a door for someone can be all that’s needed to make better a lousy day.

We live in a society where nerve endings seem constantly exposed to arcing electric wires, and some people are eager to move even closer to the high voltage. Manners for many have gone by the wayside. Intense but civil dialog has given way to screamed accusations, name-calling of the most vile sort, and a willingness to fight that would make the nastiest honeybadger take pause.

Tempting as it is to respond in kind, I sometimes have to take a breath and think of the example set by my father.

The Old Man had several friendly, sometimes almost familial letters from politicians who were (rightfully) excoriated in his editorials. One or two of them were frequent correspondents, and despite the polar opposites of their positions, Papa and those foibles were something akin to friends. After his death, some of the most surprising visitors to his funeral and Mother’s home were the organizers of a local labor union. Despite knowing the Old Man’s stance as a stalwart defender of right to work, they had developed a relationship during the months Papa covered their meetings. He never minced words with them, but he never attacked them personally, either.

I have noticed that tendency in much of thatrapidly-disappearing generation; folks that you’d think would pull a knife on an opponent at the polls would also help that opponent change a flat tire on a rainy road in the middle of the night. Nowadays, I have to wonder but that they’d instead try to hit each other with their cars.

It bugs me that folks are willing to fight to the death over little things, when there are much larger problems to be faced. Like the priest who didn’t want to have to take the time to wash the traveler’s blood from his hands, or the deacon whose business was more important to him than the life of a stranger, we lose sight of the larger picture.

We need more Samaritans in this world; I don’t mean folks who constantly go out of their way to help others, but people who are willing to give just a little bit, or at least don’t want to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire just to see it burn. Our county, region, state and country have some serious problems, as does our world, but until we can help the stranger in the ditch, we by cracky have no business trying to fix the world. Biting and fighting like a bag full of angry cats accomplishes nothing – but that hand of peace has to come from both sides.

We live in an unmannerly age, where all-consuming anger and hatred for a dissenter, rather than strong disagreement with a dissenting opinion.  I would venture that were Christ telling that same parable today, at least one of the passersby would have kicked the wounded traveler as he lay in the ditch, or maybe thrown a rock at him and said it was his own fault for getting robbed.

As he does so well, Kincy pointed out an oft-forgotten point in the parable of the Samaritan, namely the role of the innkeeper. When the Samaritan had to be on his way, he not only paid the bill for the wounded traveler, but paid for more in advance.

The Samaritan promised that, if the traveler required more care, the innkeeper would get what was coming to him.

One has to wonder sometimes, what the payment will be for some people.

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