BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Spanish-speaking Samaritan

A lot of the bible verses about Jesus and Samaria are lessons in reconciliation. Samaritans looked different, acted different, and were fairly separated from the Jews. They were made fun of, 'otherized,' and looked down upon. But routinely, throughout his ministry, Jesus makes deliberate efforts to bridge the divide between the groups.

In the parable of the 'Good Samaritan,' Jesus makes a member of the minority the hero of the story (something I wish modern storytellers would do more often in our movies and TV shows). Despite centuries cultural divide, and the estrangement from the Jews that he has experienced because he's from 'wrong side of the tracks' (read: desert), the Samaritan is merciful and willing to help the Jewish man in trouble. Conversely, the conservative religious folk stick to themselves and end up ignoring the pain of others, leaving the man on the road to struggle on his own.

Recently, the New York Times published an article that tells a similar story (Thanks to CGSA for the heads-up on it). The author doesn't look at the story from a religious perspective, but it certainly embodies many aspects of a modern day 'Good Samaritan' story. This parable is often recast using modern cultural divides to drive the lesson home (as MLK does, for example). Here, it isn't a story, its real life. Let us be reminded of Jesus's teachings.

We must understand who our neighbors are, who we are called to love, and how we are to interact with them. Are we the 'religious elite' that are too afraid to get down and dirty, maybe even risk our lives, for the sake of a Gospel that brings salvation and justice to all?

Do we believe Jesus has power only in heaven? Or does He reign on the road to Jericho as well? Are we more concerned about our own robes and garments, than about how we perpetuate the daily struggles of our sisters and brothers next door?  How do we treat a Samaritan, when we hear her speaking Spanish in the lunch line, or wearing a burqa on a plane, playing hip hop on the car radio?

I have re-posted the NYT article below. The original story can be found here. It's got its issues, but overall has a good message.

See Also:

The Tire Iron and the Tamale--Justin Horner
During this past year I’ve had three instances of car trouble: a blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out-of-gas situation. They all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse on an emotional level. And on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my own car, and know enough not to park on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel. 
Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket,” which I actually said. 
But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English. 
One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, “NEED A JACK,” and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out. 
He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business. 
I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off. Damn. 
No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man. 
After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale. 
This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by. 
But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, “Por favor, por favor, por favor,” with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: “Today you, tomorrow me.” 
Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it. 
In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank.


  1. Love this article! I've often had the same sentiments in regard to the "Good Samaritan" story. There are so many negative stories of other minorities and really we're missing out on the positive ones. And there are a lot more positive ones.

    So I've been musing on helping the person on the side of the road. Particularly, a person. Do you think if you're the only one in the car, you should stop and help someone on the side of the road? Or do you decide not to for "safety" reasons?

  2. My husband used to do this all the time, but he is a big guy who rarely has to worry about someone overpowering him. Obviously, personal safety has to come first. One can always call the non-emergency police number to send help. However, if the car is in a public area and visible, you would probably be fine stopping. Other opinions, readers?

  3. My husband used to do this all the time, but he is a big guy who rarely has to worry about someone overpowering him. Obviously, personal safety has to come first. One can always call the non-emergency police number to send help. However, if the car is in a public area and visible, you would probably be fine stopping. Other opinions, readers?


Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog