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Dr. James Key
By Dr. James Key
One of my favorite biblical stories is of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of a road.
A priest and then a Levite came upon the man, but both avoided the stranger by passing on the other side. But soon a Samaritan stopped, bandaged the man and took him to an inn, safe from harm and danger.
I was reminded of this story when I read about Walter Vance, a Black Friday shopper who collapsed in a West Virginia store and went unnoticed by distracted shoppers in search of a bargain.
Sue Compton, a co-worker of Vance, who later died, wondered, "Where is the Good Samaritan side of people?"
I'm embarrassed to admit that there have been a few times in my life when I have had an opportunity to help a stranger on the road, but like the priest and the Levite, I passed on the other side. Blinded by fear, prejudice or a busy schedule, I missed an opportunity to help someone in need.
Today, millions of ‘strangers' have collapsed or are stranded on the side of a very rutted road to economic recovery.
Who are these souls? The 250,000 families who, every three months, helplessly watch their home go into foreclosure. They are the college student forced to drop out because tuition and fees have skyrocketed by 439% between 1982 and 2007, while family income hasn't kept up during the same period. They are the middle-aged adults willing to work below their means and education level to provide for their family. They are senior citizens living on a fixed income, often without enough to cover basic needs such as rent, food, transportation and medications.
And, they are the 130,000 to 200,000 homeless military veterans who are often seen on the side of the road, begging, "Will work for food."
The parable of the Good Samaritan is not just about helping those in need, but also about excuses, self-justification and letting oneself off the hook.
In the Army, we are taught to never leave a fallen comrade behind. As we begin the New Year of 2012, the stranger on the road could be a neighbor, but tomorrow, the stranger could be you.
Sometimes a person is looking not for a handout, but simply a helping hand to make it through a very difficult time.
Dr. James Key is an Army chaplain (Major) and author of 'Touch and Go: From the streets of South Central Los Angeles to the War in Iraq.'