This is my Religion
I had the privilege of touring a beautiful art gallery in Europe a few weeks ago. I am not big into galleries or museums, or so I thought. I could never reconcile my love for history with my avoidance of museums. This gallery was different. Brightly lit from windows on all walls with skylights perched in arched, high ceilings; this building was magnificent. The art was displayed in full view with patrons lingering an unobstructed, arms length away. I was moved by so many pieces but I stood transfixed in front of this one.
This is Aime Morot's rendering of the Le Bon Samaritain. The Good Samaritan; a timeless, biblical story that we all know. A man was walking down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It's a dangerous road. He is mugged by robbers, stripped naked and left for dead in a ditch. First a religious leader and then a man from a 'priestly' family saw the man but intentionally past on the other side. Then a man from the country of Samaria walked by. What he did was no small feat. First he tended to his wounds putting oil on the places where he was hurt and then he heaved him up onto his donkey and walked him to an inn. The injured man was fully grown. He would have been dead weight. I would imagine that the Samaritan would have used all of his strength to load him on his donkey. It would have taken a tremendous heave and once he was up there, the commitment made, the Samaritan would have had to keep him up there, hoisting the body over his shoulder, perching it over the donkey.
This doesn't look easy to me. This was in the middle east. It was hot, most likely mid-day, the sun beating down. The Samaritan didn't call 911 and wait for the ambulance to arrive. He made a conscious decision to sacrifice his time, his strength, his money and his comfort to tend to a perfect stranger, a stranger who was considered an enemy.
Look at this image. It is amazing. The Samaritan had no idea who this man was. No one would have faulted him for choosing the apathetic option of his predecessors.
"It's hot, I am sweaty. I have my own business to tend to. There is not enough time. I am not strong enough or capable enough to do anything anyway. He is beyond help. Someone more qualified should do this. I am inexperienced. It is not safe. I can't afford the distraction."
It is infinitely more comfortable and much easier to do nothing. But the Samaritan sacrifices all of it: his wellbeing, his comfort, his time, his energy and then his money. He not only saved the man's life but he made sure the man was safe and then he guarded over him. The whole night. A deposit at the inn would have been quite enough but do you see what the Samaritan did? He took full responsibility. Before he left, he made sure that this vulnerable stranger would be well cared for. He left his guarantee for complete coverage of all future costs incurred during his recovery. He took full responsibility.
I love the determination on his face. It's as if he was totally meant to do this, like he's done it before and given the chance he'd do it again without a second thought. It's as if he was made for this, designed for this, purposed for this.
Here's the catch: we are all designed for this.
We are hard wired for good, compassion and courage. We are fully equipped to do what needs to be done for the good of our neighbours and our fellow man. We were never created to be so self absorbed, so distracted by the unimportant, so focused on our own comfort and well being.
Here's the truth: the suffering in this world is monumental and unimaginable but not insurmountable, never insurmountable.
Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all lived up to this same standard? What if each one of us used our shoulders to carry the victims and the vulnerable of the world? Those who are suffering under the weight of grief and loss. What if we used our collective strength to lift our fellow man out of the ditch and onto the road to recovery and health?