It was a bitter, cold evening in northern Virginia many years ago. The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless. His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.
Then he heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first one pass by without an effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another. Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot.”
Reining his horse, the rider replied, “Sure thing. Hop aboard.” Seeing that the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.
As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride. Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride. I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter night, you would wait and ask the last rider. What if I had refused and left you there?”
The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, “I’ve been around these here parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good.” The old-timer continued, “I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.”
Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply. “I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man. “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”
With that, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House.
The Bible tells us of another Good Samaritan who helped somebody in need.
One day, a man who was traveling from a far away city, suddenly met up with a group of thieves. The thieves took everything he had, and then they beat him and left him lying half dead by the side of the road.
As he lay there he heard footsteps. “I hope he will help me!” He waited and listened and then the footsteps went a different direction. That was a priest who came by, but when he saw the man lying beside the road, he decided to take a different route because he was in a hurry and didn’t want to be bothered.
After a little while, he heard footsteps again. This time it was a Levite, a well-known teacher in the temple. But when he saw the man lying on the side of the road, he looked down and walked right by, completely ignoring the poor, hurting man.
It wasn’t long until the man heard another set of footsteps. The man who was traveling down the road this time was a stranger from Samaria. As he passed by, he noticed the man who was lying beaten and bloody on the side of the road. He felt sorry for him and wanted to help. He got off his donkey and bent down next to the man to get a closer look at the wounds. Gently, he wrapped bandages around the sores and helped him to his feet. He carefully put the man on his own donkey, and took him to the nearest hotel. He stayed with the man overnight and took care of him.
The next morning he had to leave, but he could not take the man with him. When he paid the bill, he gave the innkeeper extra money, saying, “Take care of him, feed him, and make sure he has everything he needs. If he owes you any money after he gets well and leaves, write it down, and I will pay the bill the next time I come by.”
Jesus tells us to go and do the same. Just like Thomas Jefferson took time to help somebody in need, you and I need to take time to help somebody in need.
The story of the Good Samaritan is recorded in Luke 10:30–37.