I cannot deny that the sight of that battered body tugs on my heartstrings.
His flesh is maimed, so it is unidentifiable as flesh. The color has been pounded black and blue and blood flows like tears from still open wounds. What scraps remain of his clothes are so stained by the mud and blood on his body that I can’t tell where the fabric ends and the flesh begins. His arm is bent at an angle that sends pains of sympathy shooting down my own. The sight is so gruesome, I simultaneously want to stare and avert my eyes.
Self-consciously, I brush my shirt, as if I may have dirtied or bloodied it. It is pristine – as always – but the sight feels so unclean, I feel it must be affecting me. I force my eyes back to the road.
I cannot help him. There is nothing I can do. What good am I to a stranger on the side of the road? All of the reasons flood my mind at once.
- I haven’t the constitution. My stomach roils, and my body aches with pains that aren’t my own, just from the sight. And even though I now stare at the pavement instead, I can’t unsee it. An impression lingers behind my eyelids. It’s all I can do to keep my stomach from upending everything I’ve eaten today. I know I couldn’t go near him and keep it together.
- I haven’t the initiative. I don’t know where to start. Do I call someone? Do I walk for help? Do I try to save him alone? Staunch the bleeding, cradle his head? If I don’t know where to start, perhaps it would be better not to start at all.
- I haven’t the strength. I couldn’t lift him alone. There is no sign of anyone for miles. Even if I managed to haul him onto my shoulders, I’d collapse myself before I reached help. I’d cause him more pain trying to move him than he is in lying there. And what use would I be if my efforts killed him? I’d carry that weight on my shoulders far longer.
- I haven’t the time. My day never stops moving. My mind won’t stop moving. My feet wouldn’t stop moving either when there is so much to be done. It isn’t that he’s unimportant. Just that there are so many things. So many important things. He’s only one of many.
- I haven’t the money. I can barely be responsible for my own health, how could I take on someone else’s? He’ll need more mending than I can afford. I’d exhaust all of my resources trying to get him help. It would leave me nothing to fall back on. And what if nothing comes of it? What if he dies anyway?
- I haven’t the ability. Someone else might. To actually do some good. I have nothing to give. I am nothing. I am no one. I am unnecessary. Inessential. Of no use. No purpose. What good could I be to him when I’ve never been any good to anyone before? I might as well be him –beaten, bloodied, and dying – for all the good I could do.
- He probably isn’t even still alive.
So I glue my eyes to the road below my feet. I grit my teeth. I curse the world for being so cruel. And I pass by on the other side.
Does it sound terrible? I hope so.
This summer, I heard a phenomenal sermon in Thailand about the good Samaritan. And it got me thinking about the story, about the characters we see so little of, so I jotted a few lines down. And then, in the first week of school, President Perrin discussed the parable in chapel. And the need to finish this struck me. At midnight. In the middle of the work week.
All we know of the priest and the Levite in Luke is that they “saw him and passed by on the other side.” On the surface, with such little explanation, they seem callous and uncaring, but in my life I rarely encounter people so cruel. So, then, why did they do it? Why pass by? Why not do something?
And once I find myself writing down all the excuses that could have gone through their heads as they willfully ignored a dying man, it makes me question: how many things do I see and pass by in my life? And how can I be more aware of those hurting or in need? How can I be a light, have mercy, do as the good Samaritan?
Because I want to be sure that I never glue my eyes to my own feet, grit my teeth, and pass by on the other side.