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  • Reverend James Squire

The Good Samaritan at Yale

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, had a copy of his address to the Class of 2020 in the recent “Yale Alumni Magazine”. What caught my eye was its focus on who would stop to help someone in need. He cites one of the classic studies from the field of social psychology done in 1970. The study is based on the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. It is a story of just who will care for someone who has fallen on hard times. A man is attacked by robbers and left by the side of the road. The first two people of high standing pass by and they ignore him. The third man is a social outcast, puts him on a donkey, and takes him to an inn keeper and says that he will pay for whatever the man needs. This story was the jumping off point of the study. But there was a different take on this parable about the busy nature of our lives. Who would stop if they were running late for a meeting, had some time to help, or had a lot of time to help?

The conclusion was that “the two who didn’t help were not bad people. The just had busier schedules.” Only 10% of the groups stopped to help. 90% who did not help didn’t feel that they had the time to be of assistance. The study raises the question for the reader, “Are we too busy to help our neighbor whatever form the neighbor took?”

For me there is another important point to this study. How willing are we to inconvenience ourselves to help another person? If you want to have a significant relationship with another person, you have to inconvenience yourselves for them. It’s key. When I think of this attribute, I think of the marathon runner who is near the finish line and sees victory in view, and stops to help an injured runner knowing it will cause him or her to not win the race.

When I was the Head Chaplain at EA, I tried to get to all the sporting events and performances that the students were in. I enjoyed watching them as I did my own children. The students knew that I had a demanding schedule so it meant a great deal to them that I would use my time in that way.

Just when I thought that I went unnoticed, the students the next day after a game or match would thank me for coming to the game, match or performance. They told me that the clerical collar meant that they could easily pick me out of a crowd, although some days I would be one of the few.

I am the same way. If someone goes out of their way for me, I am their friend for life. The relationship becomes cyclic. The military discovered this quickly through training and war. Remember that expression “leave no man behind” no matter how easy it would be to leave them there. You could listen as well to one of our nurses, doctors, first responders, and other essential workers during this pandemic. Their lives are about inconveniencing themselves for others. If we think about it, that is one reason why they are heroes. They stop by that person in need, even if it is an inconvenience, like any good Samaritan would do!

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