I was driving back to work Wednesday afternoon after my latest doctor's appointment. My car was at the intersection of Ballas and the hospital lot. There was a rangy worn-out woman walking down Ballas, dressed in a sweater, rolling a travel suitcase. It was cold, and I wondered why she didn't put on the hoodie she had wrapped around her waist. I must have looked at her with pity, because she made a bee line to my car, tapped on the passenger side window, and explained (without any niceties or small talk) that she'd accompanied her mother in an ambulance to the hospital, she had to bring her clothes, but now she had to get back to her house, and could I give her a ride?
No, I said, gotta get back to work, but if she went back to the hospital I was sure they would give her a ride back to her Mom's house. Or else they'd call a taxi for her, or give her a voucher. She grimaced and said thanks, and headed toward the hospital.
Then I drove back to work. Then I worried about my soul for a few days. Because how cold am I? Here's this woman, she needs help, and I am the Pharisee passing by on the other side. I am not a Good Samaritan. I have not gone the extra mile. I could have given her my coat, only really, she had that hoodie. And I convinced myself that she was unbalanced because who would not wear a hoodie in the ten degree cold? Crazy woman with a shiv, that's who. Then I thought, "You're rationalizing," and that took few hours, and now it's Friday night.
I decided to go to the source. WWJD? Would J give the woman a ride, his- sorry, His coat, or advice about going back to the hospital? Here's the original Good Samaritan story from Luke:
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denari and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
I was very relieved. Jesus recommends you help strangers only when they are naked and half-dead. If that woman had been beaten half-dead, I'd have gladly piled her into my car. (I might have balked at the naked part. "She has a suticase. Why isn't she wearing what's in the suitcase?") Anyway, that's a nice little nuance from the Bible I had forgotten about. That's a relief.