There are many hospitals in the USA that are called Good Samaritan Hospital. People from Asia are sometimes confused because of the name. Who is Samaritan? Is it some famous governor or president? And why is he “good”? It turns out that these are nearly always church run hospitals, that take the name “Good Samaritan” from a very famous story that Jesus told, and which has profound meaning. So, keep your eyes and ears open, because once you recognize the name, you will realize that it is used quite a bit.
在美国有多所医院被称为善良的撒玛利亚人医院(Good Samaritan Hospital)。亚洲来的人往往对这个名字感到困惑。谁是撒玛利亚人？著名的州长抑或总统？他为什么“善良”？推究其原因是这样的：这些医院基本上都是教会开办的，取名“善良的撒玛利亚”源于耶稣所讲述的一个著名的、意义深远的故事。好了，聚精会神了，因为一旦你了解了这个名字，你会发现它用得好广泛。
For example, the very famous charity, “Samaritan’s purse” does a lot of very fine relief work, especially in impoverished and war-torn areas of the world. Its name is directly related to the same story. And there is an Asian connection: the founder of Samaritan’s Purse is Franklin Graham, whose mother was born in China, her own father being a famous missionary surgeon in Jiangsu province. As you will see later, it all fits the story.
例如，著名的慈善团体“撒玛利亚人钱袋Samaritan’s Purse”做了非常多的卓有成效的救援工作，尤其是在全世界的贫穷和战乱地区。它的名字直接与那个故事相关。这里还有点亚洲情结：撒玛利亚人钱袋的创始人是Franklin Graham，他的母亲生于中国，他的外祖父是江苏省的著名的传教士外科医生。你后面还会看到，这些都和那个故事相呼应。
In America, if you see a traffic accident, and someone seems injured, there is a strong tradition that people might quickly stop, and try to help. In fact, when I was in active medical practice, I was one of the doctors that kept a laryngoscope (a light to look into the throat, to allow placing a tube into the windpipe), and some basic medical instruments, in my car, “just in case” it was needed. Some people from overseas might be surprised, and worry that this action could lead to trouble for the person trying to help. This is where the “Good Samaritan Law” comes into play.
This law protects the person (the “Good Samaritan”) trying to help. He/she might accidentally cause a problem when he is helping, such as when there is a back injury, and he somehow moves the victim, which can twist and injure the back or nerves. Even in such a circumstance, the law protects him because of his good intentions. It is definitely a comfort to the doctor or nurse who volunteers to help, since as a professional, his/her actions could theoretically result in even medical lawsuits, if something goes awry. Actually, in my 51 years in the USA, I really don’t remember anyone getting into trouble from helping someone in need, so I assume this law could be an important restraining factor.
I often had the experience, on airplane flights, when the stewardess announced over the intercom, “is there a doctor on the plane?” One time, there were 9 neonatologists (doctors specializing in sick babies) from our institution going to a meeting, and we all shot up, which is what “action orientated” neonatologists like to do. There was a man having a heart attack. So, all of us got into action, starting with putting the patient flat on his back in the center of the aisle. It was a pretty dramatic heart rescue, even if it wasn’t a baby. Fortunately, the man survived, at least until emergency services met us on la-nding.
At times, on transoceanic flights, I might be the only person who got up in answer to the call. Frankly, nearly every time it wasn’t anything that serious. And often I received a nice bottle of wine for my trouble, and a couple of times a good note from the pilot or the airlines afterwards. But at least I did not have to trouble the Good Samaritan Law.
I know that, in countries where there is no Good Samaritan Law, the kind helpful person, trying to help a person in need, say from an accident, could run into trouble. You could say he was being a Good Samaritan, without the Law. Sometimes he is even accused of causing the accident, by the hospital or family, and even saddled with the medical bill, because others may feel, who is this person, and why did he help? Or the family sues him, or beats him up, because they are suspicious of him! A Good Samaritan without the Law can be put in a very difficult position.
Actually, I like to joke that if I were walking around in Hong Kong, or any big city of the world, and I had a sudden stroke and fell down on the ground, I would not be surprised if people walked by me without noticing. That would not be a joke. I’ve watched people in huge cities walk with their eyes straight forward, ignoring everything happening around them. So, somebody slumped on the ground might not provoke a response, because big city folk are so busy with life and focused on getting somewhere, fast. Or they might even think that, oh well, that must be a man who just had too much to drink. It might be hard to find a Good Samaritan, with or without the Law.
So maybe the problem is not just the law, but a moral-ethical problem of, do we ignore what happens to others in trouble, or how far do we go to help a stranger in need. Especially if it will complicate our own lives (Chinese like to use the word “ma fan” for things like that), or we could even get into trouble ourselves. The underlying deeper issue might also be simply trust: if I am trying to help, can I trust the person on the ground, his family, people on the streets, hospital staff, or even police. I am glad some societies are trying to grapple with this complicated issue. And, it is quite possible that, obversely, we are the person who is actually an accident victim, and wouldn’t we like to have a Good Samaritan to help us?
Laws help to shape people’s thinking and concepts, and they might indeed provoke right-thinking for an emergency on the streets. After all, this could be a life or death situation, where seconds or minutes might count, and it’s important not to delay responses. For example, during a heart attack, critical care often needs to start quickly, in the first “golden hour,” otherwise the victim can rapidly deteriorate and even die. A quick response, even an instant 911 call, can make a world of difference.
So, by now, I have probably sufficiently piqued your interest in what exactly is the Good Samaritan story? It is truly a very basic and important story. Jesus was often challenged by lawyers to explain his radical counter-cultural concepts, usually in an attempt to harass him or try to trip him up, hoping they could bring him to court. But on one occasion, there was a very serious young lawyer, who asked Jesus a basic question about eternal life. In this dialogue, Christ gave the classic iconic command, “love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer, trying to be clever, and lawyerly, but hopefully trying to learn, asked Christ, “then, who is my neighbor?”
To which, Christ responded, as was his style, by answering the question with a story, now known as the “Good Samaritan story.” In this truly iconic story, a man was traveling along the road from the great city of Jerusalem, down to Jericho, a city that is still there, known as the lowest city on earth. I have been on this road, nowadays a modern motorway, but I can imagine the original unpaved road would not be easy to travel, being very steep, over rocks and mud, and through shrubs and trees. Worse, the traveler in the story was beaten up, robbed by thieves, and left to die on the side of the road.
Two very important religious people passed by him. They had all kinds of excuses to pass on. As Jesus described the story, the victim and these 2 people were from the same majority race in that land, and one might have expected some sympathy from seeing one of your “own people” injured by the roadside, in a lonely spot. But not really. The 2 people who rushed on were too important, and too busy to stop.
However, a third man passed by, but stopped. He was of a different race, actually a minority race usually despised by the other 3 people, a race of mixed heritage and considered inferior. He was from Samaria, a place that normally the other 3 would not think of visiting, or even going through to reach a spot beyond. Such was the animosity and tension between these races, even though they were geographically, but not truly, neighbors.
With this setting as background, as Jesus was telling the story, it was uncomfortable and shocking to the listeners of the story, who were of the majority race, that the Samaritan, the man from Samaria, actually was the only person who stopped, and attended to the robbery victim. He not only bandaged his wounds, he put the injured man on his own donkey, took him to the nearby inn, and paid for the lodging, so that the man could survive and recuperate. So, then, who do you think was the neighbor? And who was a good neighbor? And who was the person who “loved his neighbor as himself?”
Indeed, “who is my neighbor?” resounds even to us today! When we pass by someone struck by a car, or in sudden need on the side of the street, by this story, no matter what difference there is in race or social status, the Great Teacher gives us a clear challenge. It’s helpful if there is a Good Samaritan Law, but it’s more important that we are all Good Samaritans in heart and action.
Samaritan’s Purse founder Franklin Graham, comes from this tradition. His grandfather Nelson Bell (father of the renowned Mrs. Billy Graham, Franklin’s China born mother) was a true “Good Samaritan,” who served faithfully as surgeon in China from 1916 to 1941, during 25 years of wars and tragedies, to help “bind the wounds” of many “neighbors.” He dedicated the best years of his life as an example and inspiration for many. The Samaritan’s Purse puts this dedication into worldwide application today, to help many people of all races in dire need.
撒玛利亚人钱包的创始人Franklin Graham的初衷就来于这个传统。他的外祖父Nelson Bell 就是一个真正的“善意的撒玛利亚人”，他是著名的Billy Graham（葛培理）夫人的父亲，Franklin Graham的妈妈葛培理夫人出生于中国。Nelson Bell 从1916年到1941年作为一名外科医生在中国忠实的服务，经历了25年的战争和灾难，给许多的“邻居”“包扎伤口”。他奉献了他生命中最好的年华给许多人树立了榜样和启示。今天撒玛利亚人钱包把这种奉献推广到全世界，给不同种族苦难的人们以帮助。
To finish our story, then, Good Samaritan Hospital, the name we often see, is another clear reminder for all to be concerned about those in need, of any race or social status, as truly “neighbors” that we should love. To be Good Samaritans.