"To live in a place where a woman still feels safe enough to open a door to a stranger."
These words, arresting in their simplicity, resonated with me. Walt Mills, a columnist for the Centre Daily Times in central Pennsylvania, was recalling the time when his car's alternator went out on a zero-degree night on a rural road near State College. He coasted into a parking lot near a few warehouses and businesses. It was almost dusk, and there was only one light on.
Walt knocked on the door of a small art studio. A woman, alone, allowed him to come in and use her phone.
Why did this woman feel comfortable opening her door to a stranger? Walt thinks it was a sense of a small-town community, in which we are all neighbors, including neighbors we don't know.
But our landscape in central Pennsylvania is slowly changing. How much longer will it feel safe to be a good Samaritan and open our door to a stranger?
There is a law of righteousness that empowers us to do the right thing - both for ourselves and for strangers. This God-ordained law determines the correct action to take.
In the case of the woman in the studio, the law of righteousness empowered her to trustingly open the door to a stranger. In a different circumstance, this law may empower her to do something different, such as call the police or call a friend to address a stranger's needs. We don't make the decision alone. The law of righteousness determines the right course of our actions.
I have seen this law operate in my own life. Years ago, I was on a consulting trip to Africa and had a 24-hour layover in Egypt. I contracted with a taxi driver to visit the pyramids. Once there, I negotiated with a camel rider to go out into the desert.
Many other tourists were doing the same thing, but my guide took me in a different direction, and soon we were far from the pyramids and the other tourists. I wasn't concerned because I was having a good time discussing politics and culture in my rusty French and Arabic. Eventually he led me behind a sand dune and we went into a cave. Inside, another man offered us tea. Again, I wasn't concerned. I had been a Peace Corps volunteer years earlier in Senegal, and one of my favorite experiences was preparing and drinking tea. It is a relaxing social activity that can take an hour or more. So the invitation to have tea with these two Egyptians was a lovely way to experience Egypt.
As I finished my tea, I noticed their demeanor had changed. Their eyes became dark and ominous. I indicated that I was ready to leave, but they did not move. It appeared I was in trouble. I silently prayed for God's help and told them I was going outside for fresh air.
Out in the sunshine, I appealed to the law of righteousness. I prayed to God to see these men as God created them - righteous, with rightful purpose and good intent.
I immediately heard God's voice: "These men are your brothers," and I thought of my own brother who loved me and would never harm me. The same law of God that governed my biological brother was governing my Egyptian brothers.
All fear left, and I went back inside. The men's eyes were warm and friendly again. The law of righteousness, I believe, guided the men to do the right thing, the God-directed thing, and they took me back to my taxi.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote in "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany": "What cannot love and righteousness achieve for the race? All that can be accomplished, and more than history has yet recorded. All good that ever was written, taught, or wrought comes from God and human faith in the right. Through divine Love the right government is assimilated, the way pointed out, the process shortened, and the joy of acquiescence consummated" (page 292).
The law of righteousness operates in small communities and in big cities around the world. It is a permanent law of God that empowers each of us to take a stand for goodness, to overcome fear with trust, and to express the righteous qualities of helpfulness, kindness, and generosity. The law of righteousness ensures that a sense of community will always exist in each one of us, and the good Samaritan will never disappear.