Yes, this post is about the Good Samaritan.
However, It isn’t about a white, middle-class, Utah Mormon family giving charity to the needy. This is a very different Mormon story.
The Parable The Good Samaritan is one of my favorite Bible stories. Along with most people I thought that the moral of this story was one of the following:
1) We should be charitable to our neighbors. The question that spawned this parable is ‘Who is my neighbor?’ I can happily say that local charity is alive in Orem, Utah (85% Mormon.) Our Mormon neighbors and friends in Orem, Utah have been amazing at their offers to help us through this difficult time in our lives. But this is expected. Friends and neighbors help each other. This is what brings strength and purpose to our neighborhoods, congregations and communities. In our case, it is white Utah Mormons helping other white Utah Mormons.
2) We should be charitable to strangers. A broken-down car on the highway. The beggar in front of the Cathedral. A late night TV appeal to sponsor a starving child in Africa. These are also good examples of being a ‘Good Samaritan.’ I would venture to say that most people equate and use the phrase ‘Good Samaritan’ in the context of helping a stranger in their time of need. And again, on this level, we have found ourselves the recipients of some amazing acts of charity from strangers. Legos for Leukemia gave the kids a Lego kit. An Episcopalian church sent us three beautiful handmade quilts. Literally, a week hasn’t gone by in which we aren’t amazed at the kindness of strangers who have somehow learned of our children’s disease.
However, I’ve recently learned a deeper, more meaningful lesson from the Parable of the Good Samaritan
3)We should be charitable to our enemies. World War II stories about Oskar Schindler and Gail Halvorsen (The Candybomber) are powerful examples of being a Good Samaritan during wartime. Yet, I’m not at war. I’m sitting at home in white suburban Mormonville where do-gooders are everywhere.
This all changed when I became the recipient of two amazing acts of service and charity that truly humbled me and also taught me the power of extending charity and kindness among those who are philosophically at odds with one another.
Unfortunately, Mormons do have ideological and cultural rivals in the United States, including those like to inhale certain herbs and others with same-sex attractions. There are a lot of reasons for gays and pot smokers to dislike Utah Mormons. Utah Mormons became heavily involved in California politics in 2008 and tipped the scales in eliminating the rights of same-sex couple to legally marry. Mormons also actively and aggressively fought against the legalization of marijuana in many states. So, needless to say, there is some friction between my church and the gays and pot users of this world. Thankfully, of all the groups Mormons could be at odds with, gay rights activists and medical or recreational marijuana users are the most forgiving and compassionate.
I can’t fully understand how the destitute Jewish man felt when the Good Samaritan lifted him up and helped him recover from his wounds, but last week, I caught a glimpse of what he might have experienced.
1) A few weeks ago a sizable donation was made to our Family Medical Trust last week by someone whose name I didn’t recognize. Somehow, an email of mine had been passed around from a friend to a small circle of gay designers and artists in New York and California. Eventually it made its way to a gay erotic artist, who, without any reservations, went online and made the largest donation we’ve received to our medical trust. The donation came with this message:
“My prayers and force be with you. I know your children are young and will go through this moment with good energy and will recover well. I send you all my love. Be strong and with God, always.”
His response couldn’t have more timely, more uplifting and more needed. It was the morning when Ike was in a most critical condition and ready to be moved to the ICU. Truly, this was an answer to my prayers – not the money, but the message of hope and love that he so openly communicated to me. And it came from a complete stranger who had many reasons to hate me. He knew that I was Mormon, and as I looked through his Facebook page, I knew that he cared deeply and had fought valiantly for gay marriage. Yet, in spite of that, this brother of mine followed his heart and came to my rescue when I needed it the most. Rarely have I experienced such a humbling moment of spiritual clarity than at that moment.
2) This next story is quite funny, yet equally humbling. Earlier this week, we were sitting around the kitchen table doing what most Mormons do on a Monday night, Family Home Evening. This is when we sit down together as a family, teach each other how to be righteous, and count our blessing for being such awesome Christians. After which we have a treat and an family activity, which, according to our children, are the only reasons they quietly sit through the spiritual pontifications. So, in the middle of our righteousness, I get a phone call from a guy working with several bands who will be appearing at the California Roots festival. Yes, THE California Reggae festival. And no, it wasn’t a wrong number.
It turns out that several high minded people in California have seen our Campbell MLD blog and facebook pages . Several of the Reggae bands and their managers have indicated that they would like our family to be the recipient of a charity event at the festival. Another anonymous do-gooder also has paid for travel and accommodations for us to attend the festival and partake of their music, art and generosity. As I sit in my bed, the cognitive dissonance couldn’t be bridged with even the best mind altering drugs. I humbly accepted their invitation with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart. And then I walked back into our family home evening with nervous excitement to tell Emily the good news. ”Hi honey, we are going to California to spend your birthday weekend backstage with High Tide, Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads, Matishyahu, 40 other bands..and 20,000 Reggae fans.”
There isn’t a single tattoo in this entire family and there is more hair on one festival goer than on all of our heads combined. (Not hard when 3 kids and the dad are bald) The only mind altering substance we have in the house is some fermented orange juice in the fridge.
And yes, they knew we were Utah Mormons, complete with modest clothing, missionary haircuts, and merit badges. However, they were relieved to know that we were slightly less good looking than the Romney clan. I’m still bewildered by the invitation. Bewildered and grateful..and humbled.
And as I reflect on the true message of the Good Samaritan, I think of the strange bedfellows that it creates. Yet as different we are, I believe that the message is this: We are all brothers and sisters, despite differences in beliefs, lifestyle and philosophies. And most importantly we all need to do more to help and lift each other up in this life, even if we don’t see eye to eye.
I obviously can’t speak for all Mormons. However, this Mormon is grateful for the kindness and courage of a gay artist and several Reggae fans for teaching me the true meaning of Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan. Love wins, again.
Please follow us on facebook to keep up to date on our reflections, observations as our children fight against MLD.