“Hey, you boys need a ride?”

Eleven miles. Not far if you zoom down a road at interstate speed. A long way, however, if you are a young boy pedaling a bicycle. And my cousin and I were young and pedaling. 

Meeting Good Sam

My cousin lived next door to my maternal grandparents. I stayed with them occasionally during the summer, and we spent our days concocting games to play and things to do. This was before the invention of video games, so nothing existed to keep us inside. In fact, we hated the indoors. The outside called our name continuously. 

One day, my cousin said, “Let’s ride our bicycles to Holly Hill”— the next town over and 11 miles down the road. I’m not sure our wisdom led us to consider how far 11 miles was. Or to think about other things like carrying water. 

I don’t remember how long it took us to pedal to Holly Hill. Although we had to ride on a major highway to get there, doing so wasn’t dangerous because traffic was light. I also don’t remember what we did when we got there. Probably rode around town. After all, we didn’t know anyone. Nor do I recall how long we stayed. Come to think of it, I don’t even think we told my grandparents about our destination or plans. We had a habit of just disappearing when we wanted to do something we thought they might disapprove of. 

After a while, we set out for home. About halfway there, our young legs gave way. We got off our bikes and began pushing. That’s when “Good Sam” stopped and asked, “You boys want a ride?”

My cousin knew a lot of people in the area, but he didn’t know Good Sam. We shrugged our shoulders and said, “Sure.”

“Where you going?” he asked. 

We told him the name of our granddaddy. He knew him, so we didn’t have to provide directions. 

“Throw your bikes in the back of the truck and hop in.” We did, and in about 10 minutes, we were home. I don’t know whether my grandmother ever found out about our little escapade, but we were glad Good Sam came along. 

Missed Opportunities 

Jesus also told a story about a Good Sam — Samaritan, that is. A man was walking from one town to another when thieves robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead. Two church folks came by, gave him a look, and passed on to their destination. The Samaritan who came by, however, stopped, tended to the man’s wounds, took him to a hotel, and paid the bill. 

Being a Good Sam in today’s world carries risk. I’ve missed quite a few opportunities myself because I felt unsure whether the person who needed help really needed help. How could I know they were on the up and up? What if they robbed me when I tried assisting them? 

I remember the time I made my daily walk behind our subdivision. As I descended the hill to the parking lot below, a young man lying on the grass startled me — not because he said anything, but because he was just … there. He lay curled in a fetal position with a cell phone in his hands. His forlorn eyes beckoned for help. Not accustomed to homeless people hanging around our area, I wondered if drugs ruled his life, or if he had a gun and waited to rob the first person who offered help. 

The thought of being a Good Sam popped into my mind — especially since my parents raised me to help others and love my neighbors — but this time, I walked by. Instead of helping, I called my wife and told her to call the non-emergency 911. As I circled back around from my loop, I saw a policeman tell him to move along. As I rounded the side of the neighboring grocery store, I saw the young man sitting on the curb. My wife saw him again the next day, holding a sign saying he was homeless and needed food. 

I could have helped him if I were a Good Sam. 

Loving Our Neighbors

Letting fear rule our lives is the easy way out of helping, but if we do, we’ll never help anyone. If we listen closely — and pay attention to our inner alarm system — God will give us wisdom and let us know whether our Good Sam opportunity provides a chance for us to help or whether we should avoid a dangerous situation. If God’s Spirit moves, and the inner alarm doesn’t sound, we should help. After all, God puts people in our path, and the second greatest command is to love our neighbor — which includes assisting them when they need help. 

I don’t know whether my childhood Good Sam prayed for opportunities to help, but my cousin and I were sure glad he stopped. And when we ask for those opportunities, it lets God know we want to get involved in spreading hope in this world. 

So be on the look out. Some Good Sam opportunities just might come your way. 

Guest Author: Martin Wiles