March 24, 2006 • By Ed Wrather
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’ "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise.” - Luke 10:29-37.
A story that appeared on one of the news channels briefly yesterday was of a 63-year-old woman walking down a street dressed in just a hospital gown and slippers. I saw the video but did not immediately realize the tragedy that I was viewing. The patient was dumped on skid row in Los Angeles in front of the Union Rescue Mission where a camera recorded the incident. The Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Hospital has apologized for dumping the woman. The even sadder news is that the Los Angeles’ hospital is only one of a large number of hospitals that are dumping patients. A watchdog group discovered that 527 hospitals have violated a federal law prohibiting the dumping of patients. This amounts to one in five hospitals in the United States that have broken this law. For more information go to www.citizen.org
The parable of the "Good Samaritan” is almost synonymous with the modern meaning of hospital. I did a search on Google for "Good Samaritan Hospital” and there were 863,000 results. However, the true meaning of "Good Samaritan” appears to have been lost.
What was it that the "Good Samaritan” of the Bible had that the "Good Samaritan” hospitals of today do not have? It is a quality, a character trait that many people and not just hospitals, are missing. The word for this is "compassion” and the definition found in the Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary comes close to what the "Good Samaritan” of old demonstrated. The definition states that "compassion” is, "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Yet, if "compassion” is just that, it still does not adequately describe what a "Good Samaritan” does.
I think the apostle John tells us what is needed in 1 John 3:18 where he says, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
What is missing from the definition of "compassion” and from the hospitals and from many people is the "deed”. The right actions lived out as the "Good Samaritan” lived it out is missing. Something is missing from our hearts if we are able to send a sick, disoriented, lonely woman out into the cold with no guarantee that anyone else is going to help either.
How can this be changed? It can be changed by each of us living our lives as true "Good Samaritans” and teaching our children and others to do the same by our examples.
As St. Francis of Assisi is ascribed as having said by his writings or teachings, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” This is what the "Good Samaritan” demonstrated and it is what we are commanded to do by the apostle John.