Whenever we think about the good Samaritan, we usually consider a generous, loving soul who cares so much for others. What we forget is when Jesus spoke about the Samaritan, He was speaking of a person who would have been reviled by all of Jesus' listeners. Our positive view of the Samaritans today, loses some of the punch that Jesus' narrative would have carried. So for your consideration, here is a retelling of that famous story. I've taken some poetic license, hoping you know this is a departure from scripture in order to re-contextualize a once powerful message.
Carlos grew up in the Barrio Logan. When he was 18 his parents had saved up enough money at their mattress store to help send him to San Jose state to study computer programming on a partial scholarship. He was the first of his family to go to college and his parents were beyond proud. He excelled at school and even interned for a few different Silicon Valley companies before starting his own business in San Diego. He was doing well. One day his father called him asking for help. It seemed he needed someone to load up the box truck for a big delivery in the morning and dad threw his back out the day before. This was a big order and they really needed Carlos to come through. Carlos, being a good son, said he would do it after work. That day he worked his butt off to finish work early so he could get out to the Barrio to load the box truck before the padre game started. However, one of his clients called to complain about something, which ended up adding several hours to his day. He left his office around 9pm without even remembering to eat lunch or dinner and he was not even considering making the padre game at this point. Just go help his dad and get home. He was in a bad mood but sometimes after being in an office all day, doing grunt work, like moving mattresses around, made him feel a bit more like he was alive. He had changed into his old nasty racquetball sweats and was glad he was alone, because he had not washed them after using them recently and they stunk. He arrived at 9:30pm to the little store-front. He grabbed the keys to the box truck and pulled it into the alley so he could more easily load the mattresses. Sometimes thieves were known to hang out in the alley, but he was Carlos, everyone knew Carlos and he figured no one would mess with him. He got out of the box truck, unlocked and opened the garage door to his parent’s business and then quickly walked back toward the to open up the back of the truck. He heard a weird noise behind him and whipped his head around to check. Nothing there. It was dark and he was suddenly feeling a bit creeped out, being alone, even in his old hood. He stopped for a moment, felt a quick shiver go down his spine and got back to work. As he reached for the back of the box truck, to open it up, something strange happened. He suddenly felt a wave of dizziness and nausea. Soon after, he felt a searing pain in the back of his head. It stung like a knife in his skull. He vomited, collapsed, felt his body involuntarily convulse and fell asleep.
Sylvester was not from the Barrio. Sylvester was actually from North County, San Diego. Sylvester was always good at math and he quickly made a good living of it. After graduating from UCSD with honors, he found himself tutoring math students at a prestigious and very expensive learning center in La Jolla. During that time he met a nice woman and married her and had children. They bought a house in La Jolla and life was going great, until he began to tutor a beautiful 16 year old girl who was terrible at math. Her grades were so terrible that she found herself in the tutoring lab with Sylvester almost daily. They hit it off right away and soon after, the tutoring relationship became in inappropriate personal relationship. Sylvester knew it was wrong and that it was hurting the girl, himself and his family but he just couldn’t stop himself. Eventually her parents found out and Sylvester was thrown in jail. His wife took the house in the divorce proceedings and he was told he would never see his children again. After serving his time in prison Sylvester was put on the sex offenders list and after struggling to find a job, because of his status, he found himself homeless.
Sylvester began collecting cans in the Barrio and other parts of the downtown area. It was nothing like his old job but he did what he had to, to survive. He worked hard and eventually saved up over $450 from the cans he sold to the recycling businesses in the area. Even now his shopping cart was almost full with crushed cans, which he knew meant he was going to get about 14 more dollars tomorrow. He was on his way back up! Soon he would be able to afford a weekly hotel where he could take a hot shower and drink all the free tap water he wanted. These cans had become his hope and he was on the verge of having a “livable” life once again. One night he found himself walking down an alley looking for just a few more cans before he would call it a night and go to sleep. He found himself intrigued by the truck lights beaming in the alley at such a late hour.
He figured he would check it out…
It was there in the alley that Sylvester saw Carlos. Based on Carlos’ appearance in his smelly old sweats, Sylvester figured he was homeless. As he moved closer to Carlos he saw him on the ground surrounded by a pool of his own puke and blood. Sylvester realized Carlos was very sick. He had no phone to dial 911 and all the businesses nearby had been closed for hours.
No one was around and Sylvester only had one option. Quickly, he ran to his shopping cart, turned it over and shoveled out all the cans he had collected in the last 4 days. Recently he had gone to a 24 hour medical clinic, perhaps a half a mile away, and he knew they could help him if he only got the sick man there. He turned his, now empty shopping cart right side up, lined it with his jacket and carefully lifted Carlos into his cart. Carlos didn’t move at all and it made Sylvester worry. The cart shook violently as Sylvester ran through the alley and down the street. He had to focus to keep the cart from turning over on the uneven sidewalk as he flew with a speed he didn’t know the cart could even manage. Sylvester felt like he had lost his life before and he didn’t want to see someone else lose theirs. Sylvester’s calves burned as he ran. He remembered how hungry he was and it was starting to feel like this clinic was further away than he remembered. As he turned the corner, the medical clinic came into view and he began to shout “HELP!” but no one came outside. He rushed into the clinic where an older man sat behind a desk. The old man informed Sylvester he would have to pay the full $400 upfront to see the doctor or they would have to go to an ER 3 miles away. Without a second thought, Sylvester grabbed his wad of cash…The very cash he was going to use to stay at the hotel, for hot showers, for free tap water…for his new life and quickly gave it to the man behind the desk.
Carlos was diagnosed with a brain tumor and soon after transferred to a hospital where he began to receive the treatment he needed to eventually recover. Sylvester continued to struggle to get jobs (because of his status as a sex offender) but even with only a few dollars to his name and no cans to fill his cart, his new life started that day… He was no longer just Sylvester the sex offender. He was now Carlos’ neighbor.