Amidst terrifying darkness, glimmering points of light feel like miracles.
Once again we are reeling from a mass shooting; once again we search for answers; once again we keep going about our business, even as we know that many families are enduring what was, until a few days ago, unimaginable loss.
News of the horrific event, and the ongoing aftermath, is full of questions that may never be answered about the mass murderer. But we have survivors’ stories and we have countless heroes, first responders and concert-goers who acted swiftly and compassionately, to help hold us up.
Indeed, if it were not for the truth of goodness rushing in whenever the truth of evil threatens to destroy something, or everything, our grief would know no bounds.
A few weeks back, I had an encounter that reminded me just how powerful the parable of the Good Samaritan is. If by chance the age-old story isn’t fresh in your mind, here it is again. This is from Luke: 29-37, when an “expert in the law” is asking Jesus a key question, and Jesus replies with a story:
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[c] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.
That’s a pretty direct take-away, isn’t it? You might think of yourself as the kind of person who would do the right thing, who keeps to a moral code, who espouses a certain religion. But if you shirk your responsibility as a human being at any given moment because it’s inconvenient, well, then maybe you need to take another look in the mirror.
Now I’d like to introduce you to the Good Samaritan who appeared in my life.
Readers of this blog will recall from a July post that my dog Rocky is debilitated by explosions—gunshots, firecrackers, cracks of thunder. He quivers uncontrollably and tries almost to get inside the oven; we comfort him as best we can, and I’ve been known to take him in the car to try to escape.
Sometimes, however, especially if we’re not home, he takes matters into his own paws.
A few weeks ago, I had to hurry downtown to pick up my computer from the shop, and it happened to be a day when I needed to put something – a correctly paginated draft of my book manuscript, actually—on a Google Drive right away. The skies were darkening, but instead of driving straight back home, which would have been the wise choice, I dipped into the Concord Library for a little while.
What I didn’t remember was that I had left the door into our screened porch open. What I didn’t count on was that the Loudest Thunder Ever would come to the neighborhood, reaching Rocky’s ears when he was all by himself.
He freaked out. And then he busted out.
I heard the storm come up suddenly while I was in the library, worried about my dog, but imagined him safely freaking out within our walls. On my way back though, I got a call from a neighbor letting me know that a stranger had somehow found Rocky out on the road and that he was now waiting for us in our driveway.
Meanwhile, my husband also called me to let me know not to use the usual route because a big tree had gone down; he was also on his way home.
Rocky had apparently been so terrified that he had pushed the screen out, wanting only to run away somewhere, anywhere. Sean, our Good Samaritan, had been driving and came upon this big, black dog who was temporarily out of his mind—in the middle of the road, and looking for some safe enclosure. Sean pulled over, opened the door, and Rocky was in like a shot, thanking him profusely. OK, so he didn’t know how to do that exactly, but he would have if he could have.
Sean probably saved his life. And by extension, mine too. When I imagine what might have happened on that road, my soul goes completely dark.
I can’t blame other drivers for hesitating to interact with a creature who was clearly in distress and, they must have thought, possibly menacing. They “passed by on the other side” as best they could, believing that their own sphere of concern didn’t need to include this Rocky on the Run. But I sure can be grateful for one driver who saw the truth: the dog was a victim of fear, not a perpetrator of it; he needed help, and fast.
My husband and I knew that we owed much to this man, and we will find ways to re-pay him, we hope. He happens to work at the place where we get our cars serviced, so just the other day I got to see him again. On a hunch, I asked whether he’d done anything else recently like what he’d done for us. His face brightened and he said, “Well in fact just the other day I was on a bike ride and saw a doe on the side of a busy road, trying to cross with her two fawns who were eager but hesitating. It looked potentially dangerous to me, so I got off my bike and held up traffic for a minute or so, and off they went.”
This weekend he’s at an Iron Man competition out of state somewhere. I hope that he will be able to complete the course without distractions, but if anybody needs some help, he’s their guy.
Life is full of perils, and the tragedies keep on coming, all but knocking us out. Embodiments of goodness cannot dispel hatred or prevent danger from then reinforcing our fears. But each time someone like Sean appears, each time we actually meet the Good Samaritan, we can better understand how we wish to live.