A familiar story for our modern times

In the hotel room the bearded man packed his briefcase hurriedly as he was late to get to his appointment. He had a long drive ahead but he wasn’t thinking that much about his appointment.

 

Instead the man was thinking about the other stop he had to make today – to that hospital, the one he visited days ago for a crucial reason. He paused – “I wonder what’s happened. Is he still there? Is he still ALIVE?”

 

The bearded man grabbed his briefcase and headed out the door…

 

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Days earlier…

 

Another man was also preparing for a journey. It was a Sunday, just after church and after lunch, and he was loading his car for a drive. The Crusaders school bumper sticker on his fender was worn but readable. He had a busy week ahead but unfortunately his destination was hours away.

 

Times had been tough lately. People were struggling in many places as the economy was being challenged by outside forces. Add to that a persistent problem with the flu in the region. Too many people had been slowed by the virus.

 

And when times are tough it usually means crime increases, and the man had heard stories about bandits ambushing travelers along area roads. But he would be safe in his vehicle, no worries.

 

His car was gassed up and ready to go on this long drive from the city to another city but it would take a route through the mountains to get there. Thankfully the weather was fine but parts of this drive would be through some rather remote areas.

 

Oh, it’ll be fine, he thought. A nice leisurely drive. Let’s get going…

 

Two hours later the man was driving along the route, his radio purring quietly in the background. He was thinking about a meeting he had scheduled for tomorrow, ideas and his sales pitch running through his mind.

 

He was almost driving on auto pilot when the scene off the side of the road jumped out at him. Suddenly he noticed a vehicle pulled off to the side and a guy frantically waving at him from in back of the car. The guy looked like he was in trouble.

 

The man thought for a moment – pull over? The area was pretty remote with little to no traffic passing by and no cell phone service there. But the guy looked innocent enough. I’ll pull over and see what help this guy needs.

 

After settling his vehicle to a stop, the man opened his door and emerged from his car. “You OK buddy?” he yelled.

 

The other man smirked, just as his two friends emerged from the woods by the side of the road.

 

Fifteen minutes later the man lay beaten, bleeding and half dead between the two vehicles. The three thugs lifted his wallet, grabbed his keys, started both cars (nothing wrong with either one) and laughed and bragged as they drove away.

 

The man on the ground couldn’t move. His brain was fogged, his eyesight dimmed. Pain everywhere and several broken bones. Images of his family flashed in his mind – would he ever see them again? There’s hardly any traffic on this road. Only one thought came to him…

 

Will – I – die – here? And then he passed out.

 

Twenty minutes later another car drove up the deserted highway. The man left for dead was clearly visible and the driver noticed him.

 

The car slowed speed for a moment – and then kept going. It was Sunday after all, and the minister driving the vehicle was already late for an event in the next town. Nothing he could do, he thought, and I’m sure someone else will come up soon who can take care of him.

 

Sure enough, just minutes later another vehicle appeared down the road. The woman driving the pickup had a nice shiny cross hanging from the rearview mirror and a vacant passenger seat, even an empty cargo bed behind her.

 

But she had heard about the increase in crime and figured that whoever jumped that poor guy must surely be still hiding in those woods. She’d be NEXT.

 

The woman floored the accelerator and took off down the road. No way I’m getting involved with this, she thought.

 

And the injured man, still passed out along the roadside, was slowly dying.

 

The bearded man was driving along the roadway, admiring the forest on the cloudy day. He rounded a curve and drove a bit faster on a straightaway, checking his radio clock and figuring how much longer he needed to get to his destination. He noticed his smartphone had no signal here.

 

When he looked up he saw the half dead man by the side of the road, alone and motionless. For a moment he thought – should I? Here?

 

The thought lasted only a moment. Immediately he put his foot on the brake and guided his vehicle off the side of the remote road. As he did so he reached over to his passenger seat and grabbed his Quran for support. God is with me, he thought.

 

As soon as the car came to a stop he quickly opened the door, undid his seat belt and jumped out. He ran over to the man on the ground and feared the worst. He gently grabbed his arm and breathed a sigh of relief as the injured man groaned and tried to move.

 

But the bearded man looked again. This other man was larger than him, with blood everywhere. He was in an unknown area where the rumors said the locals didn’t much care for Muslims. He checked his watch, saw that it was starting to get dark in the distance.

 

And without hesitation he gently picked up the bigger man, and grunting he pulled the man to the side of his car. Balancing him with one arm he used his other hand to open the passenger door and gradually worked the injured man into his vehicle. The other man groaned again and grimaced, barely conscious.

 

Closing the door the bearded man ran around to the driver’s side, breathless from his efforts. Starting his car he tore out onto the road and headed for – where?

 

Every few moments the injured man groaned and then breathed heavily and then cried quietly. The bearded man drove even faster – where’s a police officer when you need one, who could lead him to help?

 

After driving for 20 minutes he saw what he needed – a blue H sign along the road with an arrow leading to the small town up ahead. Following more blue H signs and arrows he made his way to a small medical clinic that thankfully had one person manning the front desk that Sunday.

 

The clerk took one look at the injured man and blanched, in disbelief at what she was seeing. She immediately got on the phone and within minutes an emergency vehicle arrived at the door. In the meantime the clerk helped the bearded man gently move the injured fellow out of the car and onto a couch in the waiting room, then cleaned him up as best she could.

 

The bearded man followed the emergency vehicle to the next town, larger with a small hospital and in the same direction that he was driving. Police were waiting for them at the emergency room entrance, and the bearded man answered some questions while the robbery victim, still barely conscious, was hurriedly admitted. He had no ID and no one had any idea who he was.

 

After the police questioning, the bearded man went to the emergency room doctor and asked about the other man’s condition. Guarded, he was told. Thinking for a moment, the bearded man pulled out his wallet and handed the doctor two things – his business card and a wad of cash. He knew the injured man had nothing.

 

“Take this money and use it to cover his care,” he said. “I’m visiting a town up the highway for business and I’ll come back in a few days to see how he’s doing. If this money isn’t enough, keep track of his expenses and I’ll settle them when I return. OK?”

 

The emergency doctor couldn’t hide his surprised look. He took the card and the money and said “thank you sir” as the bearded man headed out the door.

 

The doctor looked at the business card. Where was this guy from who would have done all this? “Samaria,” a town four counties over, was printed on the front.

 

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OK, you already know the original version of this story. Call this a modern version and not unlike our own area. Imagine this same scene happening between Woodward and Union County, or between Livonia and RB Winter State Park. Empty roadway surrounded by dense forest.

 

A Muslim helping a Christian? People just driving by and not even stopping? Someone reaching into their own pocket to pay expenses for a complete stranger?

 

In his parable (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus answered the question “And who is my neighbor?” His story – and ours – shows that no matter your background or where you’re from, we’re ALL neighbors.

 

In this continuing age of COVID and many still struggling in various ways, are we helping our neighbors – or just driving on by?

 

From George Churchgoer