In my previous column (“Five Thoughts on the Opioid Crisis,” KP News, March 2019), I made reference to a story Jesus told, known as “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”
A man is attacked by robbers and left for dead. Two religious leaders pass by, ignoring him and hurrying on their way. Finally, a foreigner takes pity on the man, bandaging his wounds and taking him for medical care. He even pays for his recovery out of his own pocket.
The point, according to Jesus, is to be like that guy.
The story raises an interesting question: Why do some people ignore the suffering of others, while others give freely of their time, talent and finances to help those in need? In the face of human brokenness and tragedy, why do many ignore the need while few choose to show compassion and mercy?
I have posed the question to many people, and the most common answer I hear is “fear.” We live in a climate of fear: fear of immigrants, fear of addicts, fear of any who don’t look or believe like us. Any perceived threat becomes an excuse to close ourselves off to the plight of others, instead of looking for opportunities to help out people in need.
Pride is often a subtle motivator. Some people look down on others who battle illness or poverty, believing they must have done something to deserve it. Conversely, sometimes those with means and privilege feel they deserve their health, their wealth, and their security because they are more worthy than those who struggle.
Greed is another factor, with its sense of “I’ve got mine, and nobody else gets theirs.” There’s a selfishness that causes people to build walls to keep the good life to themselves, believing that sharing it with others will somehow diminish their own joy and pleasure.
Compassion fatigue is a very real thing, as well. In a broken world, it can be exhausting to try to help in every situation. We are inundated with pleas imploring us to donate to countless causes, from worldwide disasters to homeless puppies and friends with cancer here at home. The needs are endless; it’s easy to give in to hopelessness.
Why, then, do some decide to help?
People who perceive life as a gift are often the first to jump in when they see a need. People who have experienced humbling pain, yet done the work of healing, seem the most willing to show compassion when confronted by brokenness. Those who recognize their common humanity with all people are usually the ones who dive in to make the world a better place for everybody, and not just themselves.
We all have opportunities to promote healing and wholeness in our community. In the last two days I witnessed a man go out of his way to help a stranger move her trash can and two people rescue a stray puppy running down the highway. It’s simple, really. When we see a need, we can choose to forgo our own comfort to help others, or we can turn our back and walk away.
I agree with Jesus. Be the one who helps.
Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.
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