How to Get Outside Yourself

We don’t know his name. But I do know that the Samaritan got it right.

Jesus said: “But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’” (Luke 10:33-35)

Have you ever sat with a sick friend? It’s difficult to see someone you love in pain, uncomfortable, wanting but not finding relief. I’ve spent many hours in hospital rooms, bedrooms, living rooms with people who are sick. Not my choice, believe me. God’s assignment, for sure.

Because I was the person who avoided anything medical. The person who almost fainted or threw up every time I even got close to a hospital. The person who couldn’t face the ICU even to help comfort my Dad.

Until Sally. For Sally, I crossed the threshold of her bedroom and left my fears outside. I sat with her while she was sick. We laughed. We talked. We looked for quarters to put in the next jukebox we saw. 

Something changed in me that day. God (and I really didn’t realize it was him at that time in my life) moved me beyond my own emotions, needs, pain, fear and connected me with my friend. At a time when both of us needed that connection so much.

Have you ever sat up all night with a sick friend? It’s difficult to keep your eyes open, to stay alert to the person’s needs, to administer medicine if you need to. But sometimes in the deep dark of night or the tentative light of the coming day, you have opportunities to do more. Pray. Speak God’s Word. Hold his/her hand.

Have you ever sat with a sick spouse? A relative? It’s even more difficult. But the bond of love that you have with the other person often gives you the strength to endure. More than that, it often gives you the strength to minister to him/her in a time of great need. To bring him/her closer to Jesus.

Have you ever sat up all night with a sick person you didn’t even know? That’s what the Samaritan did. Look at this. Between verses 34 and 35, the Samaritan took care of the injured man.

He rescued a man he didn’t even know. He took the man to an inn. Even as nice as our hotels and motels are today, I wouldn’t be comfortable taking a strange, injured person there. Imagine taking an injured person to an inn as it existed in Jesus’ time. Most inns were one large room with rows of single beds and candles for light.

As the Samaritan sat with the man, he probably had to listen to snoring from the other guests. The injured man may have cried out in pain during the night, and the Samaritan may have had nothing to make things easier for him. He may have been sitting on a hard chair, drowsy but afraid to fall asleep, especially if a candle was still burning near the bed.

The hours of the night must have passed slowly. The Samaritan may have wondered at times whether the man would live or die from his injuries. He certainly had plenty of time to think and pray.

During that long, uncertain night, the Samaritan lived out the commands Jesus gives us in Matthew 25. The man was hungry and thirsty, and probably received some food and drink. The man needed clothes and surely received at least a blanket. The man was sick, and the Samaritan cared for him. The man was a stranger, and the Samaritan welcomed him.

The Samaritan teaches us how to get outside ourselves. Focus on the person in need. Put his/her needs ahead of your own feelings. Make sure his/her needs are met. Offer the love, comfort, and peace only God can give. Pray. 

The next time you have a short afternoon or a long night to sit with a person (or pray for a person) who is sick or injured — or sad, depressed, lonely, abandoned, abused, frightened, or broke — remember the Samaritan’s example. He stayed. He cared.

Sally Baker Hahn. She was my poet friend, my vegetarian teacher, a treasure. Arizona, 1989.

Sally Baker Hahn. She was my poet friend, my vegetarian teacher, a treasure. Arizona, 1989.

My friend Sally and me, 1990. Sally taught me what it means to get outside of myself so that I can truly care for another human being. She passed away in 1991. My first close friend to die. 

My friend Sally and me, 1990. Sally taught me what it means to get outside of myself so that I can truly care for another human being. She passed away in 1991. My first close friend to die. 

With Sally in her bedroom. Arizona, 1991. (Photo by Sally Baker Hahn)

With Sally in her bedroom. Arizona, 1991. (Photo by Sally Baker Hahn)