By: Jon Meerdink
One of the things that has always bugged me about the story of the Good Samaritan is the lack of dangerous highways in my community. First century Israel was clearly a much different place than 21st century Janesville, Wisconsin. I mean, I’ve lived here for almost six months now and I’ve never once seen a guy that’s been almost beaten to death clinging to life on the side of the road. Perhaps I’ve been hanging out in the wrong parts of town, or maybe the right parts of town. Either way, I have yet to see a near-corpse in my many travels.
But I can’t say I haven’t encountered similarly embattled people. Case in point: on Sunday afternoon I swung through the drive-thru at McDonald’s because I wanted something to drink. It was a terribly busy afternoon and there were probably over a dozen cars in line when I got there. I placed my order, but there appeared to be problems in the line in front of me. When I finally reached the first window, I pulled out my cash, ready to pay. The girl who opened the window to take my money was nearly in tears, so flustered that she actually asked me if I remembered what my total was. Overwhelmed, by the traffic, she’d lost my order in her computer and couldn’t get it back. Presumably, similar problems had led to the long line. She was having a very rough afternoon.
Luckily, I remembered my drink order (medium mocha frappé…don’t judge) and told her the total. She took my money, gave me my change, and I got my drink and left. But the look on her face stuck with me for a while. Tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed, working essentially by herself in a tiny drive-thru booth at McDonald’s, she was the epitome of someone who needed help. Anything, really, would have sufficed. A kind word. A smile. A quick, reassuring joke about how weird it is for me to regularly order something called a “frappe.” It occurred to me later that I’d done none of these things, even though I’d recognized from my own experience how difficult of a position she was in.
I think a big step towards loving our neighbors is recognizing who they are. It can be easy for us to become so caught up in our own little worlds that we don’t recognize the problems of people around us. I wasn’t intentionally ignoring the girl at McDonald’s, but I certainly didn’t have my eyes open for someone who may have needed my help. In a way, I was unintentionally being pretty self-centered.
More often than not, the people we’ll encounter who need us won’t be the ones beaten to a pulp at the side of the road. They may not even be someone who recently lost their job, or their house, or received a deadly cancer diagnosis. Chances are, we’re more likely going to come across someone who’s just having a rough day working at a job they don’t like particularly well. How big of a difference would one person smiling or taking a couple moments to talk make in their life? I don’t know, but it might just show them that they’re not just another faceless order-taker or grocery bagger. That sounds like a good start to me.