Summary: The victims of our world would like for us to be the Good Samaritan, to stop and help so they are not stuck on the road. Anything less is to fail in our mission.
A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagonload of wheat on the road. The farmer who lived nearby came to investigate. “Hey, Willis,” he called out, “forget your troubles for a while and come and have dinner with us. Then I’ll help you overturn the wagon.” “That’s very nice of you,” Willis answered, “but I don’t think Dad would like me to.” “Aw, come on, son!” the farmer insisted. “Well, okay,” the boy finally agreed, “but Dad won’t like it.”
After a hearty dinner, Willis thanked the host. “I feel a lot better now, but I know Dad’s going to be real upset.” “Don’t be silly!” said the neighbor. “By the way, where is he?” “Under the wagon,” replied Willis.
Do you think that maybe Willis’ dad felt stuck on the road? Have you ever felt stuck on the road?
Several weeks ago I was in the district office. Barbara, the district superintendent’s secretary was talking about how she was stuck on the road, not stuck on the road, and then stuck on the road again. It was right after the “Safe-Clear” program had started in Houston. Barbara had a flat tire on her way home from work the night before, in the pouring down rain. She had tried to call her husband for help, with no luck. She did get through to AAA. They were sending help but it might take a little while. Then, she thinks that she might be in luck when a wrecker pulled up. Help might be there quicker than she thought. They tell her that they are going to tow her car off the freeway. She thinks that she won’t be stuck on the road any more because she didn’t have a credit card with her. Then she learns that they are just going to tow her off the freeway, and no further, and they are going to bill her for even that far. And, no, they won’t help her change her flat tire either. Barbara found herself, while not stuck on the freeway, still stuck on the road.
II As I think about it, we have become a society that is less than neighborly. There are way too many of us who are unwilling to help others. All that is necessary is to watch the evening news and we can quickly see that there are plenty of people around who will just sit and watch while others around them suffer. By no means should we ever believe that everyone is that way. All we have to do is to look around this room to see evidence that such is not the case.
Still, we live in a world that lacks the neighborly qualities of old. How many in our society don’t even know their next-door neighbor. I will confess that often in my life I have been one. I might know who my neighbor was by face, when I saw them, but I didn’t even know their name, their children’s names, or what they did for a living. Truly I knew nothing about them except where they lived.
A friend of mine says he knows what the cause of the problem. One day we were talking over lunch and he said, “Air conditioning.” That one took me by surprise. I asked him to explain. He said before there was air conditioning in most every home, we used to spend more time outside. Spending more time outside led to more conversations over the fence or moving from one porch to another. We didn’t want to be in the heat so we spent time outside talking to each other. I think he might have a point, but I am not ready to give up air conditioning.
That did, however, get me to start thinking. It also caused me to take a look at a broader picture than that. We aren’t neighborly because we have isolated ourselves partly because of air condition but more by technology as a whole. We isolate ourselves in front of the television. I sit and email on computer. We talk to friends on the telephone all over the country, really all over the world like we used to talk to our neighbor next door. Then there are headphones and video games, instant messaging and text messaging. All of which brought us in and put us in a cocoon of sorts. “Well preacher, what is so wrong with using the telephone or email or instant messaging or text messaging? You use email, I know, I have gotten at least one from you.” And, that would be true. Still, when we use our communication devices, we can’t shake a hand, we can’t see into each other’s eyes, we can’t lean on a shovel in the garden, talking over the peas, or in a home kitchen, smelling the coffee brewing, and we don’t know, we can’t hear, the warmth of pleasantly shared silence. We can’t do that unless we visit, in person. There’s just something about being with each other, about taking the time to talk, eye to eye, face to face, that makes such a God-graced difference in community unity.