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FIRST-PERSON: Wanted: Good Samaritans

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–On Tuesday evening, July 31, a van lurched out of control and jumped a curb in Chicago’s Oakland neighborhood. The vehicle plowed into a crowd assembled on the front steps of a building near the intersection of East 40th Street and South Lake Park Avenue, injuring three women. Angry bystanders dragged the two occupants from the vehicle. The men were then kicked and pummeled with bricks until dead. Three days later and there are still no arrests and few witnesses are forthcoming.

Where is a Good Samaritan when you really need one?

It was none other than Jesus Christ who introduced the concept of the “Good Samaritan.” The Reader’s Digest version is as follows: In response to the biblical teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling the story of a man who, while traveling, was attacked by thieves and left for dead beside a road. Two religious leaders, pillars of the community, came upon the man and ignored his plight. Both crossed to the other side of the road in order to avoid any contact with the beaten body. A third man, a resident of Samaria, came upon the injured man and responded out of compassion. He not only bound up his wounds and transported him to a safe place, but he also took responsibility for the man’s medical expenses.

Jesus then asked the one who had posed the initial question, “Which of the three in the story responded like a neighbor?” “The one who showed mercy,” came the response.

On the evening the two men were savagely murdered in Chicago, no one — and I mean no one — proved to be a neighbor.

Police and community leaders speculate that as many as 80 people may have witnessed the brutal beating. However, no one — not a single person — attempted to intervene and stop the beating.

Thankfully there were at least calls to 911 to report the initial collision and the subsequent violence. But no one rushed to the scene to try to stop the violence. It seems as if a whole neighborhood crossed to the other side of the road to avoid any involvement with the savage situation. No Good Samaritan was found for the two men who are now dead.

Some residents of the Oakland neighborhood describe the community as close-knit. A few even describe relationships in the apartment buildings as being like family. However, no “family member” bothered to try to stop his or her own from committing a senseless homicide. No one screamed for John, or Jim, or Henry to put down a brick or to stop kicking. No Good Samaritan stepped in to prevent a friend or family member from committing murder. Now that friend or family member — at the very least — faces a prison sentence.

While few residents of Oakland are willing to talk to police about the incident, eventually someone will talk substantively. A person would have to be totally void of conscience to witness a double homicide and then remain silent about it. Someone will come forward with information that will lead to the arrest of the murderers. However, this person cannot, and should not, be classified as a Good Samaritan. A helpful citizen, perhaps, but not a Good Samaritan.

Good Samaritans get involved. They do not sit passively by and watch injustice unfold before their very eyes. A Good Samaritan would have tried to stop the brutal beating in Chicago. For the sake of the men being savaged, for the sake of the perpetrators, for the sake of the community, a Good Samaritan would have intervened.

Good Samaritans were seemingly everywhere during and after the attacks of Sept. 11. However, Good Samaritans are needed, not just during an epic tragedy, but also during everyday situations. They help keep society from dysfunction and they can also prevent a traffic accident from becoming an orgy of violence.
Boggs, whose column appears in Baptist Press each week, is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs