At the height of the Korean War minister Everett Swanson flew there to speak to the troops.  Shortly after arriving, a street urchin stole his coat.  It was a cold winter day and so Everett gave chase.  As he came around a corner expecting to catch the boy instead the child had disappeared and his coat was piled on the ground.  He stopped and picked up the coat to be surprised to see that a small kid was underneath.  Once he looked around he found that he was in the middle of a makeshift gathering of orphaned children.  Those kids grabbed his heart and he created Compassion International to help impoverished children like them around the world.  In our culture, we refer to someone like Everett as a “Good Samaritan.” 
     That phrase comes from one of the parables of Jesus (Luke 10:25-37).  It’s the fictional story of a man attacked by robbers and left for dead.  Those who you would expect to help a wounded Jewish man passed by and did not help.  Instead, an enemy of the Jews, a Samaritan stopped. He treated his wounds and provided for his needs.  Likewise, Jesus encourages us to put our compassion into action. 
      What can we learn from this story about compassion?  From this parable we learn that compassion is for all.  The teacher questioning Jesus, which prompted the story, was pushing to limit compassion to those like himself.  In contrast, Jesus broadens the definition of neighbor to anyone.  As a result many hospitals and benevolence ministries have been started by Christians over the centuries.
      This parable challenges us to see the hurting.  The ones who callously passed by saw an inconvenience.  In contrast, the Samaritan saw a hurting neighbor who needed help.  We must slow down enough so we have the margin to respond when faced with a divine interruption, a person in need.  One of the best ways to really see someone is to hit pause and simply ask “what is your story?”  This holy curiosity will help us see the addict, prisoner, and even a really difficult person in a new light.     
      This parable calls us to offer healing touch.  The Samaritan dressed the wounds of the victim. Professor Mark Moore tells the story of a group of people on a subway.  A large man, 6’5”, looking like a skin head was cursing and obviously high, stepped into the subway car.  Everyone backed up in fear as he ranted.  But then a 70-year-old woman went to him and held his hand.  He immediately deescalated.  When asked why she did that she said, “I’m a mom and sometimes children just need to be touched.”  Compassion could be as simple as a hug for a widow who now rarely experiences touch.  I will never forget one of our foster kids who could be absolutely wild.  We learned to hug him first thing in the morning and tell him that we loved him.  Appropriate, compassionate touch is transformative. 
      The Good Samaritan parable teaches us to be generous.  His help of the wounded man cost him.  It cost him time, effort and money.  He even told the inn keeper to open a tab and he would settle up later if needed.  Whether you give time by volunteering at your church or a local non-profit or you give some of your hard-earned money to help those organizations show compassion to the hurting there is always a cost. 
      As we look at this familiar story let’s learn to be compassionate neighbors. 
Pastor Derek Dickinson