Going the extra mile

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

A segment that recently aired on National Public Radio's "StoryCorps" warmed listeners' hearts, at least in part because it provided such rich evidence that good alone is powerful enough to bring solutions from which all parties benefit. It brings to mind the Apostle Paul's advice to "be patient toward all men" and "see that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good" (I Thess. 5:14, 15).

One winter evening Julio Diaz, a New York City social worker, was confronted by a teenager armed with a knife, as Mr. Diaz approached his favorite diner in the Bronx. Realizing the kid was desperate, Diaz gave him his wallet. Then, as the young man walked away, Diaz called out, "Hey, if you're going to be robbing people for the rest of your life, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm."

The teenager looked back in amazement: "Why are you doing this?"

Diaz replied: "If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner. If you want to join me, you're more than welcome."

Diaz steered the young man to a booth, where everyone greeted Diaz warmly. The kid couldn't believe what he was seeing: "You're even nice to the dishwasher!"

When the bill arrived, Diaz said to the teenager: "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this, 'cause you have my money. But if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you."

Without hesitating, the young man handed back the wallet. Diaz took out $20 and gave it to him. Then, sensing the kid seemed to feel obliged to do something in return, Diaz asked for his weapon. At which point the kid gave the knife to Diaz – and headed out the door.

It would be instructive if one could take Diaz back to that diner one evening to chat about the incident. Why didn't he see the young man as irredeemable? Why didn't he hesitate to forgive his assailant? Why did he bless the young man – do something good for him? His answer – though he's possibly too modest to articulate it – might lie in something his mother told him: "You're the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you'd give them your watch." How that mother's words echo Jesus' saying, "If any man ... take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also" (Matt. 5:40). Wasn't Jesus pointing to the spirit of Christly compassion that is a vital ingredient in healing?

Selfless goodness is as alive today as it was when Jesus first told his followers about a Samaritan ministering completely to a Jewish traveler's needs when the traveler was attacked by bandits (see Luke 10:30-37). The Samaritan helped the wounded stranger despite the fact that the Jews despised the Samaritans.

Jesus used the parable to make a point about the love that leaps across divides, as well as across inclinations to avoid a problem (especially a dangerous one). It's the kind of love that transcends age and race and culture – a love that is firmly grounded in God's law.

Helping, healing, good Samaritans walk on every street – people who don't hesitate to go the extra mile. Despairing men, women, and children wait on every corner. Prayer can bring these parties together. Both can witness the healing touch of the Christ – God's message of His enduring love for humanity. Because we share the same divine Parent, we can always connect with others, including the seemingly irredeemable.

The example of God's love shows how possible it is to love someone who seems undeserving of our attention or time. But it does take thoughtful reexamination of God's nature as Love itself, which can't begin until we've set aside fear and indignation over injustices.

Progress comes with each individual's growing conviction – and demonstration – that "Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 57). That's a sound bite worth sharing through every branch of the media, every day.

Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.

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