Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What would the Good Samaritan have done?

About six weeks ago I had an experience that has caused me to ponder a bit. I was at the clinic/hospital while Phil was receiving his LAST chemo treatment. Since I can't stay with him during his treatment I had ventured a few blocks away (but still in the clinic - it is huge) and was hanging out at Starbucks. Why Starbucks you may ask? Well, because they have free WIFI and I was doing some stuff on the Internet.

So, there I was at Starbucks when in walked a patient who had quite obviously had some kind of brain surgery. Behind him was a woman crying and stifling sobs. The man said something to her and then left. She proceeded to the counter and placed her order. I had the impression that I should ask her if I could help. I assumed she was his wife and that they had received hard news and that it might do her some good to talk to someone (I've sobbed in that clinic before so perhaps I could empathize).

I approached her and asked her if she wanted to talk. Then I saw that her neck and left arm were severely scarred - it appeared from a burn. What I learned was horrifying. The brain patient was not her husband or even someone in her life, they just happened to be there at the same time. She was a patient who had been released after six weeks of being hospitalized for severe burns. She received the burns when her boyfriend became jealous/mad/stoned and sprayed her with roach spray and then lit her on fire. She was passed out from alcohol.

She'd been released from the hospital but was homeless since she had been living with her boyfriend and he was now in jail (thank goodness!). She was from another county a couple of hours away and wanted to get back to that area.

What would/should I do? I thought that I could offer to take her to her mother's house (a couple of hours away) and still make it back before Phil was done, but I received a distinct impression that I needed to stay close by Phil. She needed to get to a safe place and learn some new behaviors that would protect her from people like her ex-boyfriend.

I made a few phone calls and found out where the women's shelter in her county was. They agreed to accept her if she could meet them at the safe rendezvous point at a specific time. Again, I wondered if I should take her but felt that I shouldn't. After several phone calls and a few hours she arranged for the shelter in B'ham to give her a ride to the shelter in her county. Then she just needed a ride to the shelter in B'ham (which was about 5 blocks away). Still, I just felt that I needed to not leave the clinic. In fact, now I felt that I needed to get back to Phil. She decided she could ride the bus (which was free). I left her (and all her stuff) waiting for the bus. I haven't heard from her since. I hope she made it to the shelter and that she is in the process of changing her life situation. It turned out that Phil was having a really tough time in infusion and they had to give him some medicine that made him loopy so I needed to be with him. I'm glad I hadn't gone any further than a few blocks (still in the clinic).

I feel so conflicted when I think about social programs. I think "people should help people instead of having the government help people." Then I have experiences like this and I think, "I am not in a position to take her home with me or to give her the professional help that she needs and I don't have the money to give her to get the professional help. I am so, so glad that there are agencies available to help her."

I gave her a few hours of my time, some advice (stuff she probably has heard before), use of my cell phone for several minutes, and options. The whole time I was wondering if what I was doing was right. Was I reaching out in compassion or was I just passing the buck to a government agency?

So, what would the Good Samaritan have done for my new friend?

8 response(s):

Jodi said...

You definately are the good Samaritan. I can't tell you how many times I have acted out that story in my primary class. You definately stopped and offered help--more than anyone could expect of a young mommy with a sick daddy in the hospital. You are amazing!

amy greenway said...

Many people would have turned away and ignored her. Big emotions freak people out. You need to consider what she would have done in that state of mind without someone like you with two feet firmly planted. You were just what she needed. I'm impressed.

Bamamoma said...

While I appreciate the kind words of Jodi and Amy, I'm really interested in what people have to say about how to maintain small government and yet have agencies available to help people like my friend. If it was all 100% free market she would have no hope.

thanks guys.

Kathy said...

Heidi, first of all I think you are amazing! And I also think you did just the right thing. I think government agencies such as the ones you've mentioned are very appropriate, and you tried to help this woman use them in an appropriate manner. It's too bad the government can't take a leaf out of the Church's book when it comes to welfare and social programs. The entire difference between the Church's social programs and the government's social programs is the whole idea of accountability. But now that the government has become so tightly wound up in rescuing people due to bad choices, how do they pull back now and say "no" or "here you go but we expect this in return?" Hard questions. It makes you wonder why programs like the CCC or WPA that were so prominent during the Great Depression couldn't be put into play now?

Lisa said...

I think that you were so amazed when you were willing to help her. That woman would be able to move on in her life. Compassion service from RS is like the Good Samaritan. I know it is hard someone who is has no gospel what is the reason for.

xunil2 said...

What would the Good Samaritan have done? It's a tough question. But, does it matter? We don't know what specific promptings the Good Samaritan received.

You know what promptings you received, and you acted on them in the way you could. You helped out a stranger in the way that you could, and you let a woman who was treated horrifically know that someone cared and was willing to help. That was Christ-like.

I'm even prouder to know you. :)

Charlotte said...

I'm conflicted about this. I think the Good Samaritan would have done about what you did-i.e., used the resources available to him (in his case an innkeeper, in yours, the safe house) to fill the need. That's not the part I'm in conflict about.

What I AM conflicted about is whether or not it is the government's job to take care of situations like this, and whether or not we as a people have made the right decision in giving the government the authority, funding, and responsibility over it all. Sometimes I think we have relegated our own responsibilities to care for eachother too much.

And sometimes I don't. See why I'm conflicted?

Heidi said...

Heidi, first of all you did a great thing. You acted on a prompting.

Speaking of government, I fear I have no great insight. Recently my family fostered a 3 month old baby whose parents were abusing drugs and each other. We were happy to bring her into our arms and home. We were hopeful the system would work and we could help break the cycle for one girl. The system did not work (I wonder how often it really does) and the baby is back with her mom, while the government contiues to pay for both of their daily expenses(the dad in jail for the 30+ time--- mom finally in an expensive residential treatment program--- the baby living in rehab with other damaged kids). After this experience I feel that if our government can take kids away from destructive parents, they should keep them away. We did this to fill a social obligation (we were approached by the family and not licensed) and instead got walked all over. We spent thousands to make our home comply as well as care for Ruby w/o compensation. The parents abused welfare from the beginning of time. Do I sound bitter?

Last- in effort to make this the LONGEST comment... hello to you and Phil from UT. I am sad to hear that Phil has been battling illness again, but so grateful that he is recovering. (I worked with Phil at the UBC.)

Great blog. Thanks for sharing your happy life.