Daily Reflection
October 9th, 2006

Beth Furlong

School of Nursing
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Galations 1:6-12
Psalm 111:1b-2, 7-8, 9 and 10c
Luke 10:25-37

Today is the day for the Good Samaritan story – the day for us to consider “And who is my neighbor?” There are always two stories in my life that come to mind when I reflect on this Gospel Reading. The stories are decades old – but, because they are intertwined with affective memories and ethical conduct, they always stay with me as strong memories. The robbers’ victim was vulnerable – so, when I think about this Gospel Reading, I think of situations when individuals are vulnerable.

The first story is that of myself as one of the two story characters who did not respond to the victim. I had the same negative behaviors as the priest and the Levite. It was a Sunday morning in the early 1980s. I was on my way to go to my usual Sunday Mass at my parish. I stopped at a homeless shelter to drop something off. The one Catholic Worker at that Catholic Worker House practically begged me to stay and help with the many needs of the homeless that morning. But, I didn’t. I did not attend to their vulnerability. I met my needs. I prioritized going to the one Mass at my parish that morning. I certainly had a multitude of other options, i.e., going to Mass later in the day at another church, etc. I focused on my meeting my needs. My behavior was the parallel of “he passed by on the opposite side.” But, of course, this non-ethical behavior on my part nagged at my soul almost immediately. It was a one-time learning experience. Never again in the 25 years since then would I practice such non-neighborliness.

The second story is that of myself in a vulnerable situation – like that of the robbers’ victim, i.e., he was vulnerable. This story is three and one half decades old – but, the memories are quite sharp because of the anxiety and vulnerability I felt. I was driving a small red Volkswagon from Nebraska to Alabama to visit a friend. The car broke down along an interstate highway in Tennessee. The positive thing is that it happened near an exit to a small town. It was evening and I attempted to make sleeping arrangements and have the car towed the next morning. While I called all the hotels in this town, there were no rooms available as there was a major festival event in the town. I called the priest at the one Catholic Church to obtain permission to sleep in a church pew. That was not possible. Who was the Good Samaritan that night? It came in the personage of three African-Americans – a couple and their 8-year old son. Their car (larger than mine) also broke down in close proximity to mine. The four of us spent the night together in their car. In retrospect, given race relations in this country, I marvel at their courage in 1971 in Tennessee to extend such neighborliness to me, a young Caucasian woman. They lived the Good Samaritan Gospel story.

There are many other examples in our daily lives when vulnerability is “on a continuum” and I see others practicing Good Samaritan behaviors. I saw it on a recent airline flight by a “rooted” older mature airline stewardess – she recognized the fear and anxiety in a Central American Indian eight year old’s face and initiated changing passengers’ seating plan so the boy could sit with his father. I saw it in the initiative of an older Hungarian woman oblivious to language barriers and helping my husband and I take the correct bus last Spring.

I believe there are many times (probably many times daily) when we are given the opportunity to practice some aspect of Good Samaritan behavior. Who are the vulnerable in our daily lives? Do we follow Jesus’s words “Go and do likewise.” ?

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