I had the opportunity earlier this month to travel to Albuquerque with the Friends Church Youth Group for their annual mission trip. On the first night in Albuquerque, our group gathered with another church from San Diego, and we listened to the familiar story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I’ve heard the story countless times, and the youth have had many conversations about where they see their neighbors in need, particularly during their campaign to forgive medical debt in Texas. After revisiting the story, each person was offered a piece of paper and a pen, and were asked to write down the name of someone whom we have the most difficulty being a neighbor to. It’s an important conversation to have in a time where difficult relationships and divisive environments continually challenge our call to be the neighbor. So, I thought about the person who has harmed me more than anyone else, of my journey towards healing where I have sought to shed the heaviness of the pain caused by this person. My assumption was that we were to imagine finding this person by the road in need of care, in need of healing, and grace. I’ve had this thought before, and it’s incredibly difficult. However, what we were told next presented a challenge I was not prepared for.
We were asked to fold the paper and tape it shut, to write our names on the front, and then tape them on the wall. After returning to our seats, one of the leaders from Reach Beyond Mission didn’t ask us to imagine this person as the stranger in need of help. Instead, we were told to imagine that we were the one who had been harmed, we were the person who was laying by the road while others passed, and it was the person whose name we had written who stopped to care for us.
I didn’t like that. My immediate thought was to ask if I could change my answer, and my body’s reaction was to close itself off to any sort of help if that was my only option. But then I really began to think about what I would do, how I would feel, and what it would change if the person responsible for my wounds was the same person who came back to help them heal. What if the Parable of the Good Samaritan was not only a story of healing, but of reconciliation and accountability? What I also realized during this exercise is that I am much more willing to talk about helping others, but still find discomfort in imagining myself as the person who is in need of help. It adds a completely new layer when you are faced with just how radically transgressive grace is, and just how vulnerable it makes us feel. I’m grateful the youth began their mission week with this exercise. I’ve watched them do incredible things, and they teach me about grace every day. As they continue to nurture their call to be a neighbor, my hope is that they will also learn that it is equally important to receive grace as often as they give it, especially in unexpected places.