“Which of these . . . do you think was a neighbor to the man? . . . The one who had mercy on him.” – Luke 10:36-37
We once owned a small cattle ranch. One fall afternoon we were about to leave the ranch when we noticed one of our young heifers lying on the ground tangled up in a hay ring. How she got that way is anybody’s guess, but I suppose the hay was so tasty that she simply wanted to crawl inside the metal ring and wallow in it, like we sometimes do with a bowl of ice cream that is so delicious we wish we could jump in the bowl and swim in it. Anyway, we needed to get that poor cow untangled and set her free, but the challenge was that neither the steel ring nor the cow’s leg was very flexible.
Fortunately, this whole incident occurred at the front of our property about twenty yards from the highway where we noticed a car had pulled off the side of the road and this fellow was climbing over the fence. “Ya’ll need some help?” he asked as he studied the young heifer’s predicament while lighting up a Marlboro. Lonnie was his name, he said, and he was headed to work in the nearby village where he was employed at a deer processing facility (only in rural Texas!). His car was old and dented up, his clothes were dirty and tattered, he had on a pair of ragged rubber boots with his pants tucked inside. And as I recall he didn’t smell very good. You get the picture? But that day Lonnie was an angel, our Good Samaritan; for without Lonnie’s help I’m not sure we would have ever been able to untangle that poor cow from the hay ring and get her back on her feet.
Among the many parables Jesus told, none is as often quoted as the story of the Good Samaritan. It is about a man lying on the side of the road, robbed, beaten, and left for dead until a stranger happened by, saw his predicament, treated his wounds, and carried him to safety. But Jesus added one other small subtle detail, that the stranger also happened to be a Samaritan, who in those days was an outcast from society. (In case you didn’t pick up on it, Lonnie was probably an outcast from society as well.)
Seems to me, the moral of the story of the Good Samaritan points out the most basic humanitarian act any of us can ever do, that is to have compassion and provide help when we see a fellow human being in need, no matter which side of the tracks they are from. Who is our neighbor? The one who shows mercy, and Lonnie was our neighbor that day.