On Second Thought: Cough drops and the good Samaritan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

As one of the middle school service projects at my daughter’s school, the students decided to make healthcare kits full of toiletries and over-the-counter medications to hand out to homeless residents in our community.

On the day of the assembly, I filled a paper grocery bag to the brim with 20 individual bags of cough drops and sent my daughter off to school, not thinking anything else about it. But once she got in the car that afternoon, boy did I hear about her day. As my daughter exited the car that morning and headed up the stairs to her classroom, one of the handles of the grocery bag began to tear from the weight of the cough drops. Who knew 20 bags of cough drops could be so heavy?

Seeing the handle begin to tear, my daughter tried to shift her lunch box to another hand and hold the bag from the bottom, instead of by the handles, but as she was reaching for the bottom of the bag, it happened. The handle broke and the force of the break also caused the bag to tear and there on the steps, 20 bags of cough drops went everywhere.

Being one of the first ones in car line, there was a long line of students behind my daughter, all going up the same stairs and heading to their classes.

There was a safety patrol at the top of the stairs watching all of this take place, and yet, as my daughter shifted and fumbled and tried to pick up all the cough drops from the stairs, obviously in need of help, not a single soul stopped to help. People stepped over the bags and continued on their way. The safety patrol watched, never leaving their post and all the while, my daughter frantically struggled to gather the bags and find a way to carry them the rest of the way to her class. Each person that passed on the stairs was capable of stopping to offer help, yet no one did. Until finally, another student in my daughter’s grade, entered the stairwell, saw what was happening, and dropped to her knees to offer aid. Finally, a good Samaritan.

We’ve all read the story of the good Samaritan in the Bible. In the book of Luke, when a lawyer challenges Jesus to answer the question, “who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies with a parable. A simple story about a man traveling down a road, when suddenly he is ambushed by robbers and beaten and left for dead. As a priest and a Levite, both men many would assume would stop to offer aid, see the injured man, Jesus says they move to the opposite of the road and continue along their way. Nobody stops to help until a Samaritan man comes along. It is the Samaritan who is the hero. This man is the only one in the whole parable who sees someone in need and actually does something about it.  

As my daughter was telling her story of the cough drops and the broken bag, I couldn’t help but think that it sounded an awful lot like the story of the good Samaritan. All of those students who passed by my daughter on the stairs knew she needed help. All were more than capable of offering help, and yet, no one stopped. They stepped over the bags and carried on about their day much like the priest and the Levite who moved to the other side of the road and continued on their journey. But the one who finally stopped to help, the good Samaritan, or good seventh grader in this case, that one person truly exemplified what Jesus was trying to teach.

We are all called to love our neighbors. When someone needs help, be it on the side of the road or in a stairwell inside a school, we are all called to help, regardless of whether we know the person, or of the inconvenience to our day. If we truly want to be followers of Jesus, we have to learn to jump into action the moment we see a need, not wait for someone else to tell us to do it.

How many times in our own lives have we been the priest or Levite? How many times have we looked the other way or justified not stopping to help because our to do lists are a mile long? And yet, for the times when we choose to be the good Samaritan, how does that make us feel?

How full is our heart knowing that we have not only helped someone but we have followed the Spirit’s leading and have truly lived out what Jesus called us to do in Luke 10:27, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor, all our neighbors, all God’s people, as ourselves. Loving our neighbor doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as stopping to talk to a shut in or sitting with a person who is all alone. Or maybe just picking up a bag of cough drops on the stairs.