Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who is my Neighbour?

Last week I related the experience of having dropped my Smart car into a pothole, only to find that, when it re-emerged, it didn’t work anymore. I likened the process of contacting the RAC and the subsequent service received, along with the aftercare by the local council, to that of a patient seeking medical assistance. What I didn’t describe was the distinct lack of Good Samaritans on the B1218 at 1pm on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

For those who are not regular readers, my moribund car had drifted to a halt on the Barton to Brigg road, just before the B1206 turn-off for Barrow and the A15 intersection. It is a fast road and not the sort of place a sane person would normally park. However, over the course of three hours, despite the fact that over one hundred assorted cars, vans, lorries and tractors passed by, not one person paused to find out if I was okay, or offer assistance.

Now, it is true that many did look in my direction, and several had to stop behind me before being able to pass by, so it is not the case that they didn’t see me. It is also true to say that many will have recognised me; I certainly recognised them as local people. No doubt they all had their reasons for not stopping (perhaps some used it as retribution for not being able to get an appointment at the surgery). However, one thing is for certain, they couldn’t have concluded that seeing a local GP sitting on a crash-barrier in the middle of nowhere, with his car at a strange angle and partially obstructing the road, was a normal activity in the early afternoon, midweek. Unless they thought I was merely taking the opportunity of the sunshine and topping up my vitamin D level; though I can think of safer ways.

The episode raised an interesting question for me in respect to how we see each other in the 21st century. The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer reminds me that ‘My duty towards my Neighbour is to love him as myself, and do to all men, as I would they should do unto me.’ It is a direct reflection of both the Bible’s Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) and the New Testament (St Matthew 22:38). My question is, if we cannot extend such exhortations to those within our own community, what chance is there for our neighbours in today’s so called ‘global village’? The Good Samaritan helped a stranger because he saw his need. If we cannot help someone who is not a stranger but well known to us, how can we counter the vast needs we see in other parts of our country and the wider world?

Maybe those who passed me by perceived the truth that I was essentially okay. However, I suspect that many were too busy, too distracted, or just too indifferent to even think about asking. What, then, does my breakdown tell us about our true ability to meaningfully respond to our neighbours in the wider world?

First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 23 May 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013

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