Linking automobiles to loss of “good samaritan” empathy

The parable of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus in Luke 10:25–37. A traveler is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead on the roadside. Both a priest and a Levite (high class society people) cross to the other side of the road to avoid the man, basically to avoid “getting dirty” and “getting involved”.  But a Samaritan (low class biracial and despised) walks by the same road and provides abundant help to unfortunate traveler, both above and beyond any normal assistance.

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? was a question from the audience after this parable was told. I know you are asking why is there a connection here between the good samaritan and traveling by car.  What do cars have to do with the story of “love your neighbor as you love yourself” and the answer Christ gave to that mans query, “who is my neighbor”. It was pointed out to the man that the big guns in early Jewish society, the priests and the levites, were not always those that could, or would, respond to tragedy, to mess, to uncleanliness, to poverty, to death, destruction and despair.

Here is the connection: I learned who my “neighbor” was/is this past three weeks when my car was in the repair shop (another sad story… perhaps BMW, mini cooper will take note that an engine should never blow without at least “one idiot light coming on” or with no overheat signal from the temperature gauge).  So I walked everywhere i went for three weeks.  Not bad, it was really not that bad, but i kept being annoyed by trash on the streets, left over signs from election campaigns, used diapers, cigarette butts, fast food containers, plastic junk, unkempt yards and public areas, rocks and stones from broken curbs, hunks of debris left over from nearby construction sites, and also the occasional seemingly underfed over stressed walker. So how is this relevant you ask again.  Here is how.  I walked for one week by this visual and emotional junk, and did nothing, but by the second week, I clearly wanted to pick up stuff, rake dead leaf piles, remove weeds, offer assistance or the little bit of food i was carrying to work in my coat pockets to obviously homeless people.

By week three of walking in my neighborhood to work I was seriously considering how I could have passed this way so many years (almost 40) and not been moved to do something about its ugly areas…. here is why…. i drove my car past it at 40 miles an hour, paying attention to the road perhaps, or listening to NPR, never thinking about how i might help do something about the neighborhood, actually not really “understanding” the plight.

And sadder still, with my car retrieved yesterday, I drove through my neighborhood this morning and didn’t stop to pick up one piece of junk, or even contemplate how i might improve my neighborhood. This is why the automobile has moved us all past the empathy of the “good samaritan”. We just drive by, looking the other way.