Many years ago, I was with friends in downtown Portland Oregon. Portland had a fair amount of homeless people at the time. As we were walking to our destination we came upon a man literally face-down in the gutter. For me, it was a moment of cold panic.
I had was certified in CPR and basic emergency response. This was the early 1980s — before cell phones. AIDS had just become a named disease but little was understood about it except that it was a death sentence and it was transmitted by contact with bodily fluids.
Here was this much older man, completely covered in filth, lying in the gutter and we didn’t know if he was alive or dead.
While the rest of us watched on high alert, one of my friends gently shook the man and asked if he needed help. To our relief, he was only dead drunk. He gruffly rebuffed our offers of help and staggered off to find another place to sleep off his hangover.
My relief was almost tangible. Of all of us in the group, I alone had CPR training and I am ashamed to say that I did not want to give it. My complete selfishness and shallow compassion struck me full in the face at that moment. I knew to the core of my soul that I was not the person I ought to be. To this day, I do not know what I would have done had that man needed CPR. All I can say for sure is I was terrified of the consequences & the risks of helping.
Since then, I have gained a clearer understanding of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). While I know without a doubt, that left to myself apart from the grace of God, I am unable to “go and do likewise (Luke 10:37)”, I also know that’s the point of the story.
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