July 19, 2006

The Reluctant Samaritan

1520 page31 cap s I was driving home from a women’s retreat, a carload of my weekend friends whizzed by, waving as they passed. Moments later, brake lights flashed as we all slowed down. I peered through the traffic to see what was causing the delay. Then I saw him, standing in the road, a dirty, muddy, old bewildered basset hound, ignoring the cars as they swerved to miss him.
“I’m pulling over to see if I need to help this dog get out of the road,” I explained to my mom over the cell phone.
“Laurie,” she implored in her most aggressive tone. “Don’t get out of your car for a dog. You might get killed.”
A truck driver blared his horn at the dog, which continued to walk across the lane. I waited for the traffic to clear, and then I opened the door. The dog moved out of the road and near the front of my car. As I moved toward him, he ran into the adjacent cornfield.
“Whew,” I breathed a sigh of relief. He’s going home and I can too. I smiled and slid comfortably behind the steering wheel, eager to get home. Suddenly, the dog started back for the highway. As soon as I got out of the car, he ran back into the field. This continued several times until I gave up.
“OK, this is it,” I prayed. “I am going to open the passenger door for a few minutes. If he gets in, I’ll help. But if he runs off, he’s on his own. I don’t have time for this, God.”
I went around the car, opened the door, and returned to the driver’s seat while the dog watched me from a distance. Eventually he jumped into the car and embedded his muddy paw prints over all my belongings in the backseat.
1520 page31My offensive passenger jumped back into the front seat, stared ahead, then gave me a sideways glance and appeared to ask, “Where are we off to?”
“Why me, Lord? I don’t want some dirty, muddy, old dog in my car,” I fumed.
The speaker at the women’s retreat had challenged us to be good Samaritans in our modern world. Now I was facing a similar situation, but I wasn’t gracefully accepting the challenge. I decided to stop at a nearby restaurant to ask for help. A busy waitress suggested I call an animal lodge where they keep animals until they are adopted.
“Why, that’s 20 miles east,” I protested. “I’m not going in that direction.”
The waitress returned to waiting tables. I called the animal shelter and explained my situation to the woman on the phone, who agreed to house the dog until the owner was located. However, I had to pay for food and lodging. I agreed.
The dog was excited to see me return to the car, but the feelings were not mutual. We headed to the animal lodge. When we arrived, a woman with a leash walked to the car window. The dog looked at me and then at the woman. “He sure is dirty,” she said. She snapped on his leash, opened the door, and led him into her backyard. I gave her my contact information.
The next day I received a voice-mail message from the woman at the animal lodge. They had located the dog’s owners, who said they were grateful I took time to rescue their pet. I felt relieved and happy.
Each day God places lost people in our lives who need to be loved and cared for. He will even use a reluctant Samaritan like me if I let Him. Not being a dog lover, I surprised myself at my compassion for the dog. How much more valuable are people? They may not be the most appealing on the outside, or they may be cleaned up on the outside but masking deep pain and suffering on the inside.
I trust I will have even greater compassion and sensitivity for my fellow brothers and sisters than I did for a dog. As I experience and embrace the grace and mercy God extends toward me, I pray I will not be a reluctant Samaritan in the future.
Laurie Snyman writes from Holt, Michigan.