Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Who Is My Neighbor?
I am writing this from my own personal experience with a heavy heart. Almost a week ago God taught me a lesson I will never forget for the rest of my life and the Parable of the Good Samaritan is His vivid reminder to me of that incident. I already confessed this yesterday in our Sacrament Sunday and I begged the Lord pardon for my fault.
Last week, as I stepped out of our house on my way to our weekly Courage meeting, I met this dirty, poor woman carrying what seems to be as bags of trash. She is a "taong grasa" I guess. All of a sudden, she dropped down and lost consciousness. At first I thought she was suffering from heat exhaustion because that day the sun was scorching hot and seconds later she started convulsing - an epileptic attack! It was my first time to witness such a medical emergency. I was two to three steps away from her, all dressed up and deodorized, and in a hurry. I stood there for a moment while watching her convulse, frozen in time. Many thoughts were racing in my head. Should I help her or should I ignore her as if nothing happened? The poor woman meanwhile continued to have the seizure attack. A few meters away from us, there were a number of onlookers and "uzis" who only watched the scene unfold, as if they were watching some spectacle of sort. Like me they were just watching, perhaps waiting for me to do something since I was the one closest to the epileptic woman. A woman reluctantly approached out of curiosity and then went away. In all honesty I felt embarassed to be caught in that situation. I was also convulsing I guess because I was standing there not knowing what to do. In my mind I was very much struggling and confused.
In an instant I pretended as if nothing is happening and so I went away just like that. While hurrying towards the bus stop I felt my conscience nagging me - "why didn't you do something to help the poor woman?" This was reverberating in my head at that time and so I decided to go back to the scene - well actually I looked back from afar to see how the woman was doing. I was filled with shame and guilt then. Fortunately, the seizure stopped and the woman regained consciousness. A pedicab driver assisted the woman, who was then lying flat on her back in the middle of the street, and took her to the side to rest and recover. I felt relieved somehow that nothing bad happened to her and so after this incident I went back to the bus stop.
Inside the bus this unexpected event continued to bother me. Honestly, I felt some awkwardness in responding to that woman. First, she's dirty and smelly all over. Had she been a "normal-looking person", I could have probably responded to the call of the situation. But in her case I did not. Secondly, I must admit I didn't know how to respond to such an emergency. I feared that I might cause further harm to the person or worse I might be blamed after if something terribly bad happened to her like if she died on the spot or whatever. It scared me to death. I want to think that I'm not the only one guilty here. The idle onlookers are as guilty as I am too. It so happened that I was the one closest to her when she had the seizure attack, but they (the onlookers) nevertheless were responsible too.
I learned a very important lesson from this incident. I came to realize that I acted like the priest and the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I ignored and left her there out of my awkwardness to extend help. I did not want to be bothered by such thing. Clearly, I did not act like the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help the man although sometimes I pretend to be one. This made me realize how little charity I have for those unfortunate people that we see around us everyday. Because we're caught in the busyness of our own lives, we tend to neglect to care for them and think about their needs. Our needs always come first and I'm no exception to that. That poor, ill-clad, smelly woman carrying rubbish around is also my neighbor - not just my family, relatives, co-workers, or friends. They, the forgotten and the abandoned, must serve as a reminder to us that fulfilling the second greatest commandment, which is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, is not "selective"; it must encompass everyone - even our own enemies.
So I hope you've learned something from my experience. You might want to read this article about how to respond to an epilepsy attack.
"Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." - Luke 10:36-37