photo on Unsplash by Aarón Blanco Tejedor
by Catharine Hannay
As an antidote to the very disturbing stories we're seeing in the news, I'd like to share a few examples of people reaching across divides to help each other.
I'll start with the stories themselves, then get into some background and reflection on what it means to be a Good Samaritan.
Supporting Members of Other Faiths
- Muslim Young Men in France Protect Catholic Church
- Israelis bring Palestinian families to visit the ocean
- German church hosts Muslims without a place to pray during Ramadan
- American synagogue welcomes Muslims whose mosque was damaged in a fire
- Generations of Muslims in India have taken care of a synagogue
(above stories from GoodNewsNetwork.org)
Police and Protesters Helping Each Other
- Black state trooper helps an ailing white supremacist protester (from the New York Times)
- White police officer comforts five-year-old black girl at protest for social justice(from ABC News)
- Black man who sued for wrongful arrest saves police officer from burning car (from USA Today)
What Does It Mean to Be a 'Good Samaritan'?
We're all familiar with the phrase 'Good Samaritan' but not everyone realizes it comes from a parable in the Christian Gospels. (I have no agenda of trying to convince anyone they should or shouldn't follow any particular religious teachings; I'm just explaining the background of the parable.)
In Luke 10: 29-37, Jesus tells this story to a lawyer who asks, "Who is my neighbor?" because he wants to know who is included in the "love thy neighbor" category.
The answer is a challenging one: not only should you not leave anyone out of your circle of compassion, you should look for goodness in the people you most want to exclude.
Thomas Merton explains,
"Let us remember that while to us all Samaritans are Good Samaritans, it was not so to those who first heard the parable. In their eyes all Samaritans were, by the very fact, bad. Indeed, that was why a Samaritan had to be the subject of the parable: since it was necessary for the hearers to realize that at least one Samaritan could be a good one."
a Thomas Merton Reader, p. 348
In other words, The Good Samaritan isn't a story about how nice 'we' are. It's a story about how one of 'them' helped one of 'us.' These days, a more appropriate title might be something like
The Good Buddhist
The Good Christian
The Good Conservative
The Good Hindu
The Good Jew
The Good Liberal
The Good Muslim
Pick whichever title from that list is the hardest for you to accept. Or use the name of a group you see in a negative light: a particular gender or ethnicity? the rival sports team?
You may think you don't have any biases, but nearly all of us do, and it's important to become aware of this. You might be interested in a post by my colleague Brandi Lust on Building Narratives of Inclusion: Mitigating Implicit and Explicit Bias.
I also recommend Two Powerful Empathy Practices to Awaken Compassion, which is what I do personally to think about different points of view and expand my own circle of compassion.
You and your students might also be interested in these video playlists about people from a wide range of backgrounds finding ways to help others:
We're all getting bombarded by news of negativity, hostility, and bad behavior. It's important to balance that with the many examples of people from all over the world who dedicate themselves to kindness and compassion. Once you start looking for them, you'll find Good Samaritans everywhere.
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