Good Samaritan Inc.

 Someday I’ll write the story of the Good Samaritan. The first part we know well, for Jesus Himself told it. But we don’t know the sequel. I wonder if it was something like this:

 The Good Samaritan returned to the inn, as he had promised. The innkeeper, while no doctor, had done as instructed. The wounds were almost healed. The victim was feeling much better, and suitably grateful. With the account settled, and the victim returned to his home, the Good Samaritan began to ponder his experience.

 He was a businessman, not a doctor or nurse. Until that day on the Jericho road, he had never imagined he might care for the injured. But faced with a medical emergency, he had done what he could, and with gratifying results. The experience changed him. He lost any lingering animosity toward the Jews. In the joy of service, he forgot old hatreds, and now wished only to serve more effectively. Although his personal worship took different forms from those of the Jews, he was a believer in God. And he concluded that God had placed him on the road at that time, so he would be there to help.

 Despite the vigors of Roman rule, the highways were not safe. Robbers abounded. Many billed themselves as Jewish patriots, protesting Roman rule. But their victims were more often Jewish travelers than Roman soldiers. The Good Samaritan decided to do something about it. He had no influence with the Romans, nor with the bandits. But he could help their victims.

 After consultation with physicians, the Samaritan prepared a first aid kit. The doctors assured him that in his crisis he had done the right things. Wine was the nearest thing they had to an antiseptic. Olive oil was clean, and soothing to wounds. He now added drugs for sedation and pain relief. He prepared clean bandages. He was thus better prepared to minister to any future wounded.

 And the God who had guided him to the first victim, directed him to others. Within six months, the Good Samaritan had brought comfort and assistance to eight more wounded travelers.

 He was a Samaritan; not a Jew. Yes, he was treated as an inferior. People, even the injured, sometimes turned their backs to him, and spat on the ground. But rumors of his personal ministry began to spread.

 A roving reporter for the Jerusalem Times stumbled upon a real human interest story. He met one of the victims the Samaritan had rescued. He recorded that story, and sought out others. Finally, he interviewed the Good Samaritan himself. In previous reporting, this journalist had seemed a bit callous, even cynical. But as he came to know the Samaritan businessman and the people he had helped, his heart was touched. He wrote a great story. And syndicated newspapers published it from Dan to Beersheba.

 In those days Pharisees were famous for their good deeds. Some now felt private shame to see such good things done by a foreigner. And some of them responded in a kind and generous way. Laying prejudice aside, they organized a charitable non-profit organization and called it Good Samaritan Inc. And they invited the Samaritan himself to serve as chairman and public spokesman. He took his responsibilities seriously. Surely if Good Samaritan Inc. was to fulfill its charter, he must plan for efficiency. He began to enlist volunteers, a network of them, who would patrol the roads with donkeys and first aid kits, passing by each point on a regular basis.

 The new strategies quickly proved effective. More and more people were helped. In the offices of Good Samaritan Inc., the charts showed dramatic growth in services. The press was friendly, and more volunteers signed up.

 In the next twelve months, the Pharisees continued generous donations. And since the volunteers had already been recruited, the donkeys purchased, and the first aid kits prepared, expenses leveled out. Yet the donations continued to rise. Good Samaritan Inc. began to experience an embarrassing surplus of cash.

 And here was another trend: Despite their willingness to send donations, very few Pharisees actually volunteered to lead the donkeys. Volunteers became more difficult to recruit. Those who volunteered initially, did so out of a heart-felt desire to help. But they had not made a lifetime commitment to this ministry. After a few months, the novelty of the thing wore thin. The volunteers had their own businesses to pursue, and children to educate. Their numbers dwindled.

 Yes, the volunteers had done commendable service. But very few were medically trained. How would it be if those who patrolled the roads were actually trained for medical services. Maybe the corporation might hire real medical professionals. Why not? There was room in the budget. The organization could then do better work, and would not need to recruit amateurs.

 So over the next year or so, Good Samaritan Inc. grew from a group of volunteers, to a stable, professional service. The Good Samaritan proved a capable administrator. He hired people who could provide in-service education. Purchasing agents obtained supplies at favorable prices. His press secretary kept the charity in public view.

 Of course, what with the board meetings, press conferences, and organizational sessions, the Good Samaritan could not spend much time on the road himself. He had not personally dressed a wound for many months. But there were others who could do that, and more competently than he.

 The professionally trained personnel put their skills to use in the direct aid of injured travelers. The fact that they were well paid, allowed many to serve who otherwise could not. Donations continued to flow in from the faithful Pharisees. Employee salaries kept up with inflation, and in fact proved fairly attractive.

 Medical professionals were happy to spend a few months, or years with Good Samaritan Inc. Participation did not require much financial sacrifice, and it looked very good on the curriculum vitae. When the executive committee developed an employee health insurance plan, and a pension plan, it was clear that service with Good Samaritan Inc. could become a career.

 The Samaritan looked with personal satisfaction on the organization he had founded. His hand-picked assistant became the new chairman. The Good Samaritan himself continued as the corporation’s public symbol. He had a full schedule of personal appearances, at banquets and service club meetings. Audiences always enjoyed his story of the man who fell among thieves. His altruism on that occasion inspired them all.

 Meanwhile, the Roman administration paid attention to the bandits. In fact, the government accepted road safety as part of its responsibility to promote the general welfare. It welcomed the Good Samaritan as a consultant. But the Samaritan was not satisfied with the imprisonment of more and more bandits. He visited the prisons, and counseled with the bandits. He sponsored job training programs. Upon discharge, the former bandits were encouraged to take up responsible employment.

 Good Samaritan Inc. continued to grow. In time, the Roman government allocated tax money for its operation. This was welcome help, for the organization had now grown beyond the financial abilities of the Pharisees. Some board members felt a bit uneasy about their new alliance with government. But Good Samaritan Inc. had from the first aided victims without regard for race, creed or national origin. The employees were competent professionals of many different philosophies, who could happily unite in service. Since the entire public benefitted from Good Samaritan services, why should the financial burden of its support fall upon a few?

 And in his golden years the Good Samaritan reviewed the organization he had established. There were the medical professionals, the managers, the purchasers, the recruiters, competent employees all. Nor had he neglected spiritual ministry. His employees included a goodly number of priests and Levites.

 But despite the obvious success of Good Samaritan Inc., the Samaritan himself felt a nagging discomfort. He didn’t feel the same personal satisfaction he had enjoyed when he aided the first victim. No combination of board meetings, government lobbying, or prison reform had brought the same joy of personal involvement.

 As he dictated his autobiography, a parade of images kept passing before him. He remembered himself as wound dresser, organizer, recruiter, public spokesman, board chairman, prison reformer, and many others. He had done good things. Everyone said so. He liked his work. He had experienced the joy of service. He had also enjoyed a measure of personal power and fame. Was it godly to enjoy the whole package? When had he best honored his God? As he pondered his different roles, he asked himself this question: “Which of them, do you think, was truly neighbor, to him that fell among thieves?”

  © R. Wresch M.D. 1992.