Confessions of a minister…

well, sorta…below is from our service on compassion, exploring the story of the Good Samaritan from another angle.


You’ve heard of the story of the good Samaritan? The one who stopped for the stranger in the road, who had been the victim of robbers, picked him up, tended his wounds, took him to the inn and paid for the room?

Well, then you know me. I was the first man who walked by. I crossed the street to avoid the guy bleeding on the street. I was the bad example, I guess. The priest who couldn’t be bothered with the plight of another human being.

But before you blame me, let me tell you my side of the story. I am not the callous, heartless monster you might suppose. Truth is, I was having a rough day. I was feeling overwhelmed already, and was on my way to – well, the point is I had things to do. And it’s not like I was selling fake junk bonds or anything. I’m a priest! I’m trying to do good things here. Holy things.

And I tried helping strangers before. One time, when I was young and naïve I gave a beggar money straight from my wallet – and was mugged, right there. You think it’s easy to care for others?

And you should have seen this guy. I pass a dozen like him every day. Passed out on the road, his clothing in shambles. If I had known he was a mugging victim, that might have been different. For all I knew he was a drunk, or a drug addict. A victim of a very different kind of mugging, in other words, one that happens slowly, over a lifetime of neglect and abuse, a sufferer from some disease, leprosy to alcoholism. I’d pick them all up if I could. I would. But where do I take them?

So I passed him by. Passed him by, and then this – this- Samaritan gets all the glory. A nobody. The Samaritan, I heard he was a telemarketer of fake real estate. Or somebody else told me he was a Muslim woman in a hijab. I heard various reports that he was a homeless drag queen, or a Tea Party NRA supporter. The last person you’d expect, that’s who the Good Samaritan was. And he was the one who saved the day.

And as for me – well, guess what, I’m not perfect. When I heard I was the bad example in a story from Jesus – the Jesus – well, I felt ashamed at first. Horrified. I wanted a different kind of fame.

But then I thought – hey, there’s always grace, right? There’s always a chance to make something out of good intentions and a few mistakes. So the next morning I called up my little sister – the one who always gets on my last nerve – and I asked her how she was doing. On the way to work I paid the guy’s toll behind me. I was going to make a nasty comment on the internet, and I let it go.

Yeah, I know, hardly epic acts of goodness and compassion. But every little glimmer of goodness lets the light in. And sometimes that’s all I got.

And I’m scanning that road, too. Maybe I can’t pick up every stranger on the road. But if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that I need help on the road, too. Sometimes I’m the bloody mess on the side of the road – figuratively or literally speaking. Other times, though, what I need more than anything is to know I’m connected to everybody. Fact is, I walk by – and sometimes I need to walk by, let somebody else do the saving – but when I walk by and do nothing, well, I’m a little less of a full person than I could be. I feel a little less complete, a little more seperated. So I’m on that road, looking for grace, whether I’m passed out and wounded or healthy and walking along. I’m looking for those moments that connect me to the great body of humanity. That connect me to the love that brings me outside of myself to something bigger than I am. I may never be perfect, and that’s OK. But I’ll tell you what: as I walk on in life, I’m looking for the opportunity to be saved by love – the love I receive, and the love I get to give.

About bobjanisdillon

Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, husband, father, three-chord guitar wonder.
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