To whom are we neighbours? – For communities blog by Naomi

I recently found myself taking part in a group exercise in which we had to discuss the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is one most will recognise however I will offer a retelling nonetheless -

30A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Luke 10:30-35

The question was put to us - ‘which person in this story do you relate’. Our group, being brought together by a common calling to social action, could see ways in which we related to each character. We saw ourselves as the Inn Keeper – facilitating the good deeds of others, trying to do our best with the little we have whilst juggling busy lives. We saw ourselves as the priest and the Levite, passing by on the other side of the road when met with social issues that seem too prevalent for us to tackle. We were also the traveller; all of us experiencing times of vulnerability, when we find the need to rely on others for support and comfort. And of course, we saw ourselves in the Samaritan, attempting to minimise the suffering of others.

The parable tells us of the travelling man attacked and left half dead by the side of the road, and the Samaritan who acts as a neighbour upon meeting him, supporting him on his path to recovery. As individuals there is a great deal we can achieve, as the Samaritan did. But it is when we come together as communities that we can have positive long term impacts on peoples lives. We do not need to wait to meet with blatant instances of suffering as we go about our daily life, we can actively participate in support and as beacons of hope seek out and identify those who are in crisis and those who suffer in silence. Whether this be an elderly neighbour who sits alone, housebound due to deteriorating mobility, a child filled with anxiety at the thought of telling his friends his dad has been sent to prison or a person with a previous conviction trying to make a fresh start. By recognising those who are on the margins in our community and working together to offer support and compassion, we ensure they do not lose their place within it. Only then can we fulfil our roles as neighbours.

For the many people who are working hard to make their communities better, stronger, safer and healthier, we recognise all that you do. We press on – Together, In Hope.