Luke 10:25-28 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (NIV)
At the grocery store checkout counter, a homeless man with a long brown beard and long scraggly hair and wearing a torn corduroy suit was mumbling strangely in an agitated manner in front of me. Ahead of him was an elderly man who had had a recent hip replacement and who was struggling to stay upright by leaning on his shopping cart. He left the store bent at a ninety-degree angle, hugging the cart for dear life.
Outside the grocery store, the elderly man leaned too heavily on his shopping cart, sending it and him crashing to the ground. A woman rushed over to him, but after sizing up the situation, she darted away to her car without offering assistance. As I approached the stricken man, the homeless man knelt down beside him. I heard him speaking to the fallen man in soothing, cooing tones. As I pulled the cart back up and reloaded the groceries, two other men approached. Together, the three men hoisted him up and helped him to his car, where they loaded his groceries into the trunk. Much to my surprise, the homeless man offered to sit in the passenger seat to make sure the elderly man got home safely and to help him get his groceries into his residence.
Some might say that the elderly man took a chance letting a stranger into his car. Some might think something terrible could have happened to him. But since that day, I have seen the elderly man at the grocery store, and he is doing well with his recovery. I also saw the homeless man the very next day at the same mall. He rushed to open the door for a woman and said, "Here, let me help you." I think he might live down by the creek.
In reflection on this event, I thought about the parable of the good Samaritan, whom the Jews despised as a foreigner. Like the Samaritan, the homeless man gave of himself to help the elderly man in his time of need. Although it is possible to vilify a homeless person for being dirty, unkempt, and perhaps smelly, this story is a reminder that even those who have fallen on hard times can be our good neighbours. In this case, as in the parable, the story demonstrates God's mercy and our need to do likewise.
Prayer: Dear Father, the parable of the good Samaritan reminds us of Your unconditional love and mercy. This lesson shows us what You truly seek from us — our hearts — from which love and mercy should flow unfettered. Forgive us, Lord, for our selfish ways, and let Your love refresh our hearts so that we, too, can be good neighbours. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.