The Good Samaritan Recast

One challenge we face with Biblical stories and parables is time tends to mute certain elements. I have selected a series of stories told to me and from my own experience that give a modern recasting of these stories. My hope is that you can see this story in a new light and better understand some of the deeper aspects present in the original.

Chapter One

My wife, youngest son, and I were visiting friends in central Tennessee over Christmas. One late afternoon in the middle of our week, after a long morning of work on their farm, we headed into town for some much-needed lunch. We had decided to eat at breakfast place not found in our home state. We passed several other good candidates for lunch which were very tempting, but for some reason we never made the decision to pull into their parking lots. Eventually we found the diner we were looking for and went in.

While waiting to be seated, I noticed beside me a young girl who was seated in the waiting area. She was very agitated and talking on a phone. I did notice it was not a cell phone she was using. We sat down and ordered and ate our lunches. During our lunch I had a clear line of sight to her and watched as she became ever more agitated. She had curled herself into a tiny ball and first one leg and then the other started to furiously bounce. Her body language told a stark story of great distress. After paying at the register, I turned around and now saw her silently sobbing with streams of tears running down her face. My heart broke for her, and I sat down next to her and asked what was wrong.

It took several minutes for “A” to compose herself enough to say she was trying to get into a woman’s shelter. I told her I would be happy to take her wherever she needed to go. I did ask how old she was, and she told me twenty years old. She looked maybe 15, but I took her at her word for now. We talked a little more and I eventually learned she had been left there by her boyfriend of 5 months. They had driven from Texas to Connecticut to visit her mother and were on their way back to Texas. They had an argument and he had left her first at an intersection with only a couple of gas stations. He returned and picked her up, hit her several times and dropped her bloodied at another gas station. He then retrieved her a second time. I found her at her third and final abandonment which was next door to the  gas station which also was a Greyhound bus stop with nothing but the clothes (pajamas) on her back, no money and no phone.

What she really wanted was to go home to her mother, but her mother had lost her job and didn’t have the money to buy a ticket for her. We talked some more about her situation, and she began to calm down when I explained I would do whatever it took to help her.  In the process of doing this I had a brief conversation with “A’s” mother to make sure this was a good and safe choice for “A”. Her mom said: “Yes!! Send my baby back to me!”

She hadn’t eaten for more than a day so I ordered her a breakfast which she ate very little of, I would find out why a little later. As she ate, I began to look up what a bus ticket would cost and ordered one for her. She looked at me in complete disbelief when I told her the ticket had been purchased and her bus left at 8:30 that evening. Once more the tears flowed, but not out of fear and frustration, but relief.

“A” mentioned she had a stray cat she had found a couple of days earlier and had left outside which she needed to get and would need some way to care him on the bus. So, we paid for her breakfast and headed to Walmart. The transformation of this waif began. There was a bit of a bounce in her step, but she stayed right next to me as I walked with my cane into the store. It was now that I got a clear look at her face. She had been hit at least a couple of times. Her eyes were bruising, and her lip and cheek were swollen. She also showed me the large gouge in her inner lip and explained that was why she ate so little of her food.

Our first stop was the pharmacy to get something for her headache and cut lip. As we walked on, she stopped and threw her arms around me and cried some more. She couldn’t believe someone cared for her enough to help at all, let alone this much. Next, we got a change of clothes and a warm sweater for her. She again cried with gratitude, but now I saw her first smile. We made our way to the pet section and got a carrier and food for her cat. The last item was a phone so she could communicate with her mother on the trip home.

By now, I began to see hope in her eyes.

We had several hours to kill before her bus arrived, so we went back to the farm to complete our projects. As we drove the 20 minutes or so back, I kept waiting for her to ask “where are you taking me?” But she never did. For some reason she completely trusted we would care for her and more importantly she was safe. I had explained to her while shopping, she was my daughter for the day, which meant I took responsibility for all her needs and would care for her until she got on the bus.

My first project at the farm was to promptly get my truck stuck, badly, in the mud. Did I mention it had been raining all day? As we worked to free my truck, throwing mud in all directions, “A” started to laugh and smile. She said this was the most fun she ever remembers having! She had always wanted to go “mudding.” I am glad someone was having fun!

Our endeavor to free my truck failed completely, but we did load onto the trailer the stuff we needed to. We called for a tow truck who successfully pulled my truck and trailer free of the mud. While this was going on, she and my wife had a long conversation about what brought her to this point.

Now that my truck was free, we all piled in and went back to our hotel so “A” could get cleaned up and changed into her new clothes for her two-day ride home. The young woman who emerged was a transformed creature. Gone was the terrified waif who didn’t know what to do and was utterly hopeless and abandoned. In the few hours we had spent together she had experienced our unconditional love and acceptance and it had been transformational. We had, at times, mentioned why she was unconditionally loved and accepted and where the source of this love came from. But telling her the full story of God’s love for her was not our first mission. Triaging this lost child was the most important job we had. We planted seeds which I pray would one day grow.

“A’s” bus was an hour and half late, so we had time for dinner. So back to the place it all began we went. This time “A” ate her whole dinner. She laughed and smiled the whole time. Even as she shared more of her story, it was told with a determination to overcome her past, not be defined by it.

The bus eventually arrived, and I walked her to it and one last time she threw her arms around me and gave me a long hug. I reminded she will always be loved and accepted by her family-for-a-day.

This is our “Good Samaritan” story. When the Samaritan came upon the beaten man, he didn’t say meaningless platitudes, or toss a few coins, or say a prayer. No, he ran over, knelt, and said “Today my friend, your problems are now mine.” He picked up the burdens of this beaten and battered man, gave him the water he and his colt, tore his own clothes for bandages, and paid for his care and lodging until he could recover. The Samaritan is a Christ figure. He gives himself completely to the care of the one in need. Completely covering all his needs.

When I sat down next to “A” I knew I would do whatever this poor and distressed girl needed. I had already committed in my heart to do everything in my power to help her in any way. That is what the Samaritan did, that is what Christ did on the cross, and that is what we are called to do every day for our neighbor and brother. When Cain asked of God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God took a few millennia to answer and in the parable of the Good Samaritan we have our answer. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper.

A couple of hours before we arrived back at our home, we received a note from “A’s” mother telling us she had just gotten home safe and sound. What great and wonderful news!

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Here are some of my favorite Hymnals:

Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook:

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal:

Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin:

Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945

Book of Psalms for Singing    (1912 Psalter is unavailable)

Here are my new projects:

Hymns Ancient and Modern

J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales


Dictionary of Hymnology:

American Hymns Old and New