Lessons from a Wal-Mart Parking Lot

Are you familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan? I know I must have heard this story at least 50 times from my growing up years and now as an adult. I thought I knew all the details of this story and could easily communicate the main gist of the story, along with Jesus’ command to “Go and do likewise” at the very end. If you’re not familiar with this story, I’ll give you a recap: Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

            “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

            He answered:  ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and ,’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

            “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

            But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

            In reply Jesus said: ”A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

            The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

            Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

If you’re observant in your reading, you will notice that I bolded the word “saw.” In a sermon by our pastor several months ago, this point was brought to light. The Samaritan first saw the beaten man before he decided to help him. He wasn’t wrapped up in his own little world, or too busy fighting with his donkey to not notice the injured man. So, with this point in mind, I’ll tell you what happened to me this week and how this story was brought to mind.

First off, it happened on Monday when my husband is usually off. He had gone over to our church to do some work for a couple of hours and I was stuck with 4 out of 5 of the kids. Take note that I used the word “stuck”—I was not in a good mood and felt like the kids and I were having just a bit too much togetherness lately. So, when he came home, I was a big grump and ready for some time alone.  Needing some groceries and other miscellaneous things, I decided to do a WalMart run by myself. On the way there, I heard a radio commentary on this particular story. The commentator also noted the point about the Samaritan seeing the injured man before helping him. Starting to feel a little less grouchy, I breathed a prayer that God would help me to be a “good Samaritan” in whatever circumstances that came my way. I also prayed that I would be able to “see” the needs of others and not too wrapped up in my own issues to not notice them.  To be honest with you, I prayed this and once I got to the store, I completely forgot about my prayer and the story.  I did my shopping and as I was checking out and then loading my van, I started to get a bad headache, something that is not normal for me. I suddenly couldn’t wait to get home and maybe rest for a little bit. When returning my shopping cart, I happened to notice a lady with some kind of wire in her driver’s side door. She wasn’t making a scene, just quietly trying to jimmy the lock of her SUV. Tons of people were passing by, including a carload of capable young men that pulled out right beside her, apparently laughing at the poor woman. I watched her for maybe a minute and then decided to at least ask if she needed help. After all, I didn’t have any children with me vying for my attention and no time limits, things that would normally be my excuse for not stopping to help. As I approached, she looked up and I could clearly see she was upset and frustrated. “Can I help you?” I asked her. When I spoke to her, it was apparent that she was definitely not from our country and spoke with a heavy accent. She told me she had no money to pay for help and that her keys and purse were locked in the vehicle. I assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem, I could at least give it a try or call someone to help, not to worry about paying anyone. I don’t know if she totally understood me, but she nodded, and kept on trying to jimmy her lock. I happened to glance across the parking lot and see a security vehicle with a guard inside of it, one that patrols the parking lot at regular intervals. I told her I’d be right back, flagged him down and explained the situation. He quickly pulled over near her vehicle and assisted the woman.

As I was driving home, my headache even worse, I didn’t give much thought to what had happened. It wasn’t until many hours later, my headache thankfully gone, that what had transpired really struck me. I remembered hearing the radio commentary on the Good Samaritan, how it echoed my pastor’s recent sermon, and breathing a prayer for God to help me see those in need. Then the parallels of the story fell into place for me and I was humbled. First, I was able to see someone truly in need and responded with mercy. No, my story was nowhere near as dramatic as the real Good Samaritan and (thank you Lord!) I didn’t find someone bleeding alongside the road. I didn’t really do all that much, just got a fellow human some help for something as trivial as a set of locked-in keys. The fact that the woman was foreign also formed a parallel in my mind as the Samaritan was helping a foreigner. Also, just as in the real story, people were passing by, obviously aware of her need and not willing to help. In the case of the carload of young men, even scoffing at her. So why am I sharing this story with you all? Because I think the Lord was really teaching me a lesson about being a good neighbor and about being able to see those in need with more of His eyes and not the eyes of a rushed, self-absorbed person, things I have certainly been guilty of many times over. I was also challenged to keep on being a good neighbor in whatever circumstances present themselves. As I sign off here, I will leave you with the words of Jesus, spoken over 2,000 years ago to a bunch of people who were essentially testing him and caught up in the law of the time:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 NIV

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