“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
“ ‘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?”
Luke 10:25-29 (NIV)
The town never slept entirely; a window-screen rattled within its frame. Radio music, slightly static, meandered between the ballpark fence and the Shop-And-Go. Headlights leaked across narrow country lanes, faintly illuminating sentinel rows of corn, sky high and rustling in the darkness of a crescent moon. The light, like a finger pointed in curiosity, nudged a still body, lying awkwardly in the grass by the side of the road leading onto Main Street. It was Ferguson Jones; he was barely conscious.
Ferguson knew he was in trouble, but he couldn't wrap his throbbing head around the how and why. Gingerly allowing his hands to creep from hips to shoulders, to knees, to ankles, he checked the tender spots, the aching places. He felt like he'd been thrown from a truck; everything hurt.
A sliver of red sun thrust up from the hills to the east, rolling back the night like a slow motion film. Ferguson couldn't stand; something was broken; a bone down there, that wouldn't bear his weight.
It would be daylight soon. Someone would help. He lay back down and tried to ignore the pain.
By the time the sun had traveled a thumb's width above the trees, Ferguson had counted five cars. Five cars had passed him by, black and white cruisers coming to check in, gliding like sharks, eyes focused forward toward the day, lethally close and full of power. They never saw the man. If anything, they saw a bundle of rags, a clump of garbage, and it didn't concern them. Ferguson knew the law would not help him.
A red and white pickup truck hauling a wagon piled with hay rattled toward him. Ferguson raised himself up on his elbows and twisted his hips under, wrenching a shoulder with the effort. His eyes threatened rain as surely as the red sun of morning; tears of hope pooled and he blinked rapidly, in time to watch the farmer drive by. If only the man had looked his way. Surely he would have stopped. If only he'd had eyes to see.
A growing knot in Ferguson's stomach competed with pounding pain. The day grew brighter and his circumstances grew more serious. He remembered. License suspended, car impounded, he had hitched a ride into this town. This town where he wasn't known, where his past was not pulled out and paraded in front of him. Just a couple of drinks, he'd thought. Just a couple of laughs. But the ride had turned to nightmare. He remembered the feel of the gun on the back of his head; the passenger in the backseat told him to hand over his wallet, his watch, his valuables.
"Open the door," the man instructed. "Get out."
He could still hear the low chuckle of the driver as he slowed down just enough to push Ferguson against the opened door. He rolled on impact, the sickening thud and crack of his body hitting the pavement drowned the retreating sound of tires and muffler. And then, nothing; he must have passed out.
Ferguson heard the next vehicle rumbling from a distance. He struggled to make himself more visible to the driver sitting high in the cab of the approaching semi. Managing to sit, he used his arms, waving desperately. With each movement, pain. He saw the driver turn. He felt the driver's eyes on him, looking down from the cab like a judge from on high. Looking down at the fluttering body by the side of the road. No identification. No money. Ferguson didn't have anything to offer for the help he needed, help that was again denied him. Body broken, spirit parched, Ferguson lay back down, defeated.
One more time before the sun stood full in the sky, Ferguson struggled for the compassion of strangers. A church van slowed for a moment, raising his hope again. He couldn't help the angry flip-off he'd thrown when it sped away, kicking gravel in his direction. Satisfaction in seeing the shocked look on the faces of the holier-than-thous struggled with regret when he collapsed, nerves on fire, as a result of his one-fingered action, his defensive reflex born of a lifetime of self-defeat.
He tried again to stand. Gritting teeth and fisting hands, he rolled onto bloody elbows and pulled torn knees beneath aching hips. His right leg wouldn't hold; he collapsed, exhausted and shaking with the effort. Then he tried to scoot along the shoulder of the road, through the tall grass, stretching his arms out behind to support his torso, and dragging the useless legs. The pain was manageable, and he made small progress. He found it easier to close his eyes, shut the world away, and focus solely on pulling himself down the road.
With the voice, a change, like feeling the sun go behind a cloud. Ferguson planted his hands in the grass and opened his eyes. Tennis shoes, blue jeans, loose and worn, standing in the light, shadow falling, blanketing him where he sat.
"You look bad, Mister." The voice again, deepish, with a hint of that adolescent break. Young.
Eyes tracking up, Ferguson noted the sag in the pants, the hoodie pulled up, the pocketed hands. He saw eyes the color of compassion, and a face overflowing with kindness, and he wondered. Why him?
"I'm gonna get you to the hospital, you need help. I'm gonna take care of you."
The first question that the Levite and the Priest asked was:
‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’
But…the good Samaritan reversed the question:
‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
Martin Luther King, Jr.