The Appalachian Samaritan

The Appalachian Samaritan June 27, 2016


I complain a lot about my little region on the cusp of northern Appalachia, but I do love Appalachia, and this is one of the reasons why.

My friend Haylea, a young mom from Southern West Virginia who identifies as a “hillbilly,” was not herself affected by the recent flooding, but she lives nearby. Last night, I found this post on her facebook, which I share with her permission:

So, what had happened was….

The original plan: take a couple of people back up to Rainelle to get some of their stuff and drop off some donations.

What actually happened: there was too much to take in my car, so Joanna suggested we take hers. So we loaded up the midwife mobile and a second car and off we went. We get to town, drop off the stuff, and while we’re sitting around, a dude–who is pretty clearly on meth, but is a person who needs help, nonetheless– asks me to take him down the road to Advance  [the auto part store] to return the starter they sold him. No biggie. Except Advance didn’t have the right one so these people who aren’t even from Rainelle are trapped there. We decide that we’ve gotta go to Lewisburg to cash a check so we can take him and his wife (also obviously on meth) with us to check for the part. Back across Sewell Mountain we go. So, we’re on a Good Samaritan mission while on a Good Samaritan mission. Then we see a tow truck that has managed to smash head on into a tree. So I decide we’re stopping to help. At that point, car two went on by and headed for home. Dude already has help coming so we head on down the mountain. Then we get a flat. Of course we do, right? No biggie. Between the 5 of us we can certainly change a tire. Except there is no jack and no lug wrench. I call car #2 and leave a message. Hopefully they’ll call back. So, we decide we’ll just wait since we’re in WV and a Good Samaritan will be along to rescue the good Samaritans shortly. Sure enough, the next person down the hill stops. He has a jack but his lug wrench won’t fit. So he breaks out the wrenches. We got this. But the bottle jack is too tall to fit under the car. #2 finally calls back and comes to the rescue. But the lug wrench doesn’t quite fit. But it’ll work well enough. We limp down 64 to Lewisburg on a donut. We get a tire repair kit, plug the tire in the Walmart parking lot, drive on down the road to fill it. We’re gonna check it with some soapy water. No soap on the gas station -_- so we drive on (still on the donut) to advance. Check the pressure again. It’s all good. Except advance doesn’t have the part that guy needs for his truck. So we buy a lug wrench, change the tire again, and head back to Rainelle. Drop them off, grab the [expletive deleted], and head out of town. Then the transmission is gonna do strange things, so we decide to take route 20 alllllll the way back to Princeton and pray it’s not flooded or otherwise impassable. For the record, it’s clear the whole way.

We’re finally back home and I’m going to scrub the ick off.

This morning, she was posting on Facebook asking for a ride to go back and help, because what with the tires and everything yesterday she’s too poor to drive down herself.

I love how people help each other in Appalachia. I love how the default cultural position is to stop and help. Take the man on meth to Advance. Stop to help the crashed tow truck. Know that, if your tire goes flat, someone driving by will help you. Go back and do it again tomorrow.

Far too often, when we see a bad situation of any kind, we quietly assume that someone will help and then we go on our way. Or, worse yet, we pray and then go on our way. I wonder if the priest and the Levite from Jesus’s parable were praying for the wounded man as they went on their way.

Faith without works is dead. Prayer should spur us to action. The Christian life should spur us to action. Our default position should be to stop the car and help.

Sometimes, we’re totally helpless. Then the only action we can take is to intercede all the more, with prayer and fasting and personal conversion, and I believe that that does make a difference. But very often, I think we’re not helpless but lazy. Perhaps our prayer so often seem fruitless because God has granted them already, in giving us the capacity to act. He can’t force us to act, because He won’t violate our free will, and so He waits for us as we wait for a dramatic intervention from Him. And on and on it goes, in stagnation that God never intended, with so many waiting for mercy that never seems to come.

Our default position should be to see our neighbor’s need, to be moved with compassion, and to get in the truck and go help. Get out of the truck and help. Go home, wash off the ick, and then go back and help.

Haylea just updated her status again:

Every morning you should ask two questions.

1) where’s the coffee?
2) how can I help somebody today?

Then go get coffee, drink it, pour more, and go help somebody. Every single day. You don’t have to do something brave or extreme. Help somebody load their groceries. Offer someone a ride. Buy someone a cold drink. Just do something. Every single day.

We can all learn from the Appalachian Samaritan.

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