Last Sunday, Jim Campbell made an announcement in his church:
“Good Samaritans are still alive and well.”
That may not sound like an earth-shaking proclamation.
But in an age where cynicism and deception seem to be on the rise, it can seem like very good news indeed.
And Jim — a retired teacher from Fremont — had a good example to back up his claim.
It all started a couple of Saturdays ago, when Jim’s wife, Pat, picked up their grandchildren in Omaha.
Pat put her cell phone on top of the car and drove off — not realizing she’d left it there.
She drove out of the neighborhood and onto Blondo Street — a major thoroughfare.
While on Blondo, she accelerated and heard something make a “thunk” noise, but kept driving.
By the time she reached Elkhorn, Patricia realized she didn’t have her phone.
She hurriedly returned and searched along Blondo Street and the neighborhood where her grandkids live — to no avail.
Pat’s phone — an iPhone 8 — had photos of her grandkids and her trip to Australia.
While Pat continued to search for her phone, Jim got a call from a man — named Patrick — who’d found the phone on Blondo.
The man, a groundskeeper at Miracle Hills, was just getting off work.
He made a U-turn with his vehicle and stopped traffic on the busy roadway to pick up the iPhone.
That could have been dangerous, Jim noted.
The man noticed that Jim had just called four minutes earlier.
He dialed Jim.
“I thought I was going to be talking to my wife,” Jim said.
But the caller was the Good Samaritan.
“I found this iPhone on Blondo,” the man said.
Jim and Patrick arranged to meet in Elkhorn.
“Nicest guy in the world,” Jim said of the phone-finder.
The man didn’t want any reward, but Jim handed $20 to Patrick, who said it wasn’t necessary.
“Go have lunch,” Jim offered.
The man — who’d worked a lot of hours during the past two weeks — agreed to do that and accepted the money.
Jim never learned the man’s last name, but told him this:
“There are still really good people in the world and you’re one of them.”
And Jim made sure to share the story last Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Fremont.
“I think it’s pretty miraculous,” Jim said.
It’s also a reminder of a parable that Jesus shared more than 2,000 years ago.
Parables are stories that Christ told to help people better understand spiritual truths. Or as my pastor says: They’re an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
This parable begins with a man, who’s going from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he is attacked by robbers. The thugs strip him of his clothes, beat him and leave him half dead.
Two church-operating guys — a priest and a Levite — see the man and go to the other side of the road, passing right by him.
When a Samaritan sees him, he has compassion on the badly beaten man.
The Samaritan does some ancient-day first aid — pouring oil and wine on the man’s wounds and binding them up.
Then he puts the injured man on his own donkey and brings the guy to an inn, where he takes care of him.
The next day, the Samaritan takes out two denarii (estimated to be the equivalent of two days wages for a laborer) and gives them to the innkeeper.
“Take care of him,” the Samaritan says. “And whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”
Now, please understand — Samaritans were a group of greatly disliked people.
And Christ’s audience would have understood the significance of a story where one of these unpopular folks was the hero.
Jesus never says if the innkeeper needed more money.
Or if the man who was beaten ever saw the Good Samaritan again.
Or ever thanked him.
But Christ did ask his listeners a question: Of the three men who encountered the man on the roadway — which one proved to be a neighbor to him?
The answer: The one who showed him mercy.
Then Jesus gives an unmistakable command: “You go and do likewise.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that parable and zipped right past that last sentence.
And I never thought about it until I recently interviewed Leroy Wentz.
Leroy is an assistant program manager with Samaritan’s Purse.
Volunteers in the charitable organization recently helped flood-affected families in the Fremont area.
Leroy pointed out that statement — You go and do likewise — as a reason why the organization has helped hurting people around the world for more than 40 years.
Go back and look at those words.
They’re not a suggestion.
Or a request.
Or even a plea.
Jesus is serious when he says this and it makes me wonder how many people I’ve overlooked in my rush to go somewhere or to do something I thought was so important.
Patrick did more than retrieve a cellphone. He helped preserve Pat’s photos and gave Jim an encouraging story to share. He gladdened both of their hearts.
And he serves as a reminder of the importance of helping others.
We should all do so well.
I’m glad Pat got her phone back.
And knowing Jim — a retired English and journalism teacher at Fremont Junior High and Fremont Middle School — I’ll bet he was pretty animated when the modern-day Good Samaritan handed him that phone.
He certainly sounded excited when I talked to him.
But after all, what journalist can resist a good story?