Thursday, March 8, 2012

Good Samaritan?

I was leaving the gym in Hope before daylight about a week ago and a man with a flashlight flagged me down as I was driving through the parking lot away from the light. I rolled down my window and the man started talking very rapidly, saying something that started, “I swear, this ain’t about money. . .” I could see where it was going, so I told him to knock on the glass door at the gym and someone would help him and drove away. As I did so, he yelled plaintively, “But sir, sir, hey sir!” I then saw him heading towards the gym, supposedly following my instructions.

I had a lot of confidence in a friend of mine who was exercising there, a retired state trooper, and I knew he would either see through the ploy or help the man.
I felt a little guilt for not being more helpful until I thought about the fact that he waited until I was away from the light in the middle of a deserted parking lot at 5 a.m. to flag me down. Perhaps my instinct was right to drive on. I hoped I was not like the priest and the Levite in the Good Samaritan story, going by on the other side rather than helping my fellowman.

This morning, the same man was waiting in front of the gym. As I drove up he started towards my truck with a flashlight. Rather than pull into a parking space, I made a loop around the lot and drove a block or two away, then turned around and returned to the gym. When I arrived the second time, the man was gone. I told my state trooper friend about the episodes and he said, “Yes, he knocked on the glass door last week and told some bogus story about locking his keys in his car and needing money to have a locksmith come let him into his car. If he comes back around here, we’ll call the city on him.”

The trooper told me he figured the guy hung out at the nearby fast food places till they ran him off and then came to the first lighted place with people in it he could find to work his scam. I felt better about not being a Good Samaritan. These days, I suppose, one must be careful about offering aid. I have read about a number of setups that can get motorists into trouble for trying to be helpful. I just hope we can be discerning enough to recognize the opportunities for true service when there is a genuine need.

I know I have been grateful for the help of others when I have had car trouble. One time I was returning home after spending the night on Petit Jean. I was a member of the Camp Mitchell board and we had a late night meeting. I was trying to get home the next morning to teach a 9 o’clock class and I was pushing the Pontiac a little too much in the rain near Benton. I made the mistake of hitting the brakes in a curve and lost control, drifting off a high bluff. A motorist stopped and yelled down to me, “That stuff is slick ain’t it?” I was in no position to argue that point. He came down and helped me climb up to the road and gave me a lift to a telephone. He waited with me until the wrecker came. That was a Good Samaritan and I’m very glad he stopped.

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