An unexpected sidewalk Samaritan
A Christian Science perspective: A flat tire, a street-corner encounter, and an important lesson.
I had a flat tire on a city street one evening while driving home from work before I headed to a church meeting. I stood there in my suit and tie looking at a tire punctured by a large nail, prayerfully reassuring myself that divine Love would get me to the church on time, when a gruff voice behind me asked, “Can I help?”
I turned to see a bearded street person leaning on a large shopping cart full of ragged belongings. Startled by his sudden appearance, my first thought was one of caution. The whisper came, “Be careful here!” But I put fear of this scruffy-looking stranger aside, guided by the Bible’s stipulation that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
So I gratefully accepted the sidewalk Samaritan’s help, and he quickly went to work changing my tire. A policeman in a squad car stopped, wondering why this street person was rooting around in the trunk of my car. I thanked the officer for his concern, saying all was well.
I was soon on my way home in time for church without needing a change of clothes, embarrassed not only by my first bad impression of this good man, but by the fact that I had only $10 in my pocket to reward him for his help.
For me, this street-corner encounter was an important lesson about life in the big city, where prevalent belief sometimes sees danger lurking at every turn. While it’s true we need to make our way prudently on city streets, our most reliable protection comes from a higher understanding of God and His love for His sons and daughters. I saw the man’s offer as evidence of divine help, and I didn’t want to judge that help by the form in which it came – a tangled beard or dirty fingernails. But don’t we often make rash judgments based on outward appearances? Do we see the needy as an urban blight, or walk by them as if they don’t exist? Maybe we buy into cruel notions that see them as self-inflicted victims of drug addiction or other bad life choices.
In my chance encounter, I reasoned that if this man, who appeared to be homeless, was heir to God’s kingdom, he could have no unmet needs or dismal existence, no matter what his earthly world of poverty said about him.
I needed to see him as God’s child, about his Father’s business. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote: “The great miracle, to human sense, is divine Love, and the grand necessity of existence is to gain the true idea of what constitutes the kingdom of heaven in man. This goal is never reached while we hate our neighbor or entertain a false estimate of anyone whom God has appointed to voice His Word” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 560).
The initial fear I felt toward my unkempt benefactor was simply believing in the superiority of one of God’s children (me) over another (him). If we think we’re better than another, or smarter, more successful, we unwittingly ascribe inferiority to God, since He made us all in His own image. In his letter to the Greeks in Thessolonica, the Apostle Paul wrote: “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God,... for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another ” (I Thessalonians 4:8, 9).
Our heavenly Father-Mother plays no favorites. No one lords over another or vies for divine favor. No strangers reside in God’s kingdom. He knows who we are, where we are, and what we need. Mrs. Eddy also wrote, “Mine and thine are obsolete terms in absolute Christian Science, wherein and whereby the universal brotherhood of man is stated and demands to be demonstrated” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 318). The study of Christian Science makes it clear that a self-righteous air of superiority cultivates arrogance and blurs the perception of good. This retards right thinking, and hinders healing. But seeing others as God sees them brings blessings and freedom.