Good Samaritan or Good Neighbor
In Luke the story of the good Samaritan challenges so many of us when Jesus defines our neighbor to include even our “enemies.” After all, Samaritans were the equivalent of immigrants in the Kingdom of Israel and despised for not being natural born citizens, something that continues to divide citizens around the world who struggle with assimilating foreign cultures into their homelands. In the story the model is established that helping others is extended to friends and foes alike. But does the story go far enough?
The help provided by the Good Samaritan is compassionate and displays the very servant leadership that Jesus challenges us to follow. Currently I am reading “The Good Neighbor,” the biography of Mr. Rogers and I have been moved by his passion and relentless pursuit to make every child feel loved with empathy. The book begins with Mr. Rogers on Oprah after the producers were warned not to put children in the audience. True to form, as soon as Fred Rogers sees the children the entire focus of the show shifts to Mr. Rogers the child servant as he lowers himself to their level to ask empathetic questions. The “show” is for all intents and purposes over, but Fred’s show continues until every child feels emotionally safe.
The Good Samaritan provides, I would argue, the model of how to be sympathetic, that is to feel sorry for the “other’s” misfortune. The good neighbor, though, provides the model for how to be empathetic, that is to understand and share the feelings of the other. Empathy provides the very emotional proximity that can help carry us through our toughest trials.
Mr. Rogers, a Presbyterian Pastor, strove to do more than just taking a moment out of his busy day to help a neighbor. For Fred every moment of his busy day was about being a good neighbor and teaching
others how to do this through empathy. It is one thing to help an “enemy” neighbor, but quite another to make our enemies our friends. Sympathy provides help, empathy healing, and healing with empathy is what friendship is all about, foe or friend alike.