The Good Samaritan Ruined My Life

The Good Samaritan helping a beaten man.

Illustration by Dan Butt

This is the story of the Good Samaritan.

A foreigner travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho was set upon by thieves who beat him and stole his clothes. A Jewish priest and a Levite crossed the road and passed on by without helping.  

Then a fellow from Samaria came along. He helped the beaten man, took him home and gave him a bed for the night. When he was well enough, the Samaritan gave him clothes and sufficient money to continue his journey.

Jesus told this story in answer to a question by a lawyer (I kid you not) who asked: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Jesus’s response is found in Luke’s Gospel as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Everyone is your neighbour.

The Good Samaritan had come to the aid of a man of a different race at a time when the Holy Land was riven by distrust and xenophobia. The lesson teaches us that we must deal with our own prejudices and help others wherever they are from and whoever they may be.

The Good Samaritan’s story has inspired great art and his name has been borrowed by churches, hospitals and charity organisations. The suicide watch, the Samaritans, is staffed by volunteers who provide support to people in the UK and Ireland suffering from emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide.

The Good Samaritan Test

It had just gone 8.30. The sky was dark and the curtains closed when there was a knock on the door. I didn’t open it. I asked who was there. ‘I’m homeless, can you help me?’ a man replied. ‘I’m sorry,’ I told him. ‘We don’t open the door at night.’

We live neither in biblical times nor on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. We live in the middle of London. It isn’t merely wise to be careful, it is essential.

While I was taking the daily walk the following morning, I saw a young guy with a backpack sheltering from the rain beneath scaffolding. He didn’t ask for money, but I felt guilty passing by under my umbrella. It was raining again next day and the same young guy was standing in the same place staring out at the rain. We chatted for a couple of minutes and I gave him £10.

He was about seventeen and seemed pleasant enough, softy spoken, gentle. I could have taken him home; we have a spare bedroom. We could have washed and dried his clothes in the machine and sat down together for some dinner.

Why was I unable to do what the Good Samaritan had done?

There are good, honest, if vaguely shameful reasons why not. The homeless young man may have had psychological problems, a victim of care in the community. He could have stabbed us to death in the night. On the other hand, if he was as gentle as he appeared, how could we with our empty bedroom have turfed him out the following morning? We would have to have taken on a long-term commitment, tutors, A-levels, college, adoption? 

During the first wave of the epidemic, the government created the ‘Everyone In’ programme to get homeless people off the street and into hotels. It was successful, highly praised, but too expensive. According to a leaked document seen by BBC News, 16 May 2020, ‘the government quietly pulled the plug’ before the second wave.

According to Shelter, there are 280,000 homeless people in Britain. Thousands are sofa surfing and in temporary B&Bs. Families of four or five or six were were obliged to share one room during the lockdown where their children had to study in the corner and zero-hours contract workers lived in constant fear of bringing home the virus. Thousands more are still sleeping rough like the boy I  saw that day in the rain. I feel guilty but know deep down the problem is not my lack of compassion, the lack of Good Samaritans in our community, the problem is behind the door at 10 Downing Street.




Posted in Blog.


  1. There is no easy answer, but I feel the same way you do. In the late 1990’s I volunteered full time for three months with The Simon Community in London, a wonderful organization whose philosophy I appreciate. I would consider donating to them in February as that is when the holiday donations are gone and the pantry is bare.

  2. [* Shield Security plugin marked this comment as “SPAM”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “make money” in “comment_content” *]
    I have to hold back the tears when I see someone sleeping on the streets. I usually buy them some food or phone the useless government hotline “streetlink” whereby nobody ever seems to answer a phone. Next best action is giving a Direct debit to Shelter. Why can’t the Government just use the thousands of empty buildings which seems to me the perfect solution. They could also build large blocks of one-bedroom flats. Why don’t they. Because it doesn’t put money into the pockets of Boris and his chums so people are left to rot on the streets in one of the wealthiest Countries. ~Compassion doesn’t make money

  3. I remember during the war my mother was the good Samaritan in the village . We took in waifs and strays so much that when a couple, escaping the bombs in london, asked around the village for accommodation they were directed to my mother who happened to be out. The couple cut a hole in the window and installed themselves. This would not happen today because people are frightened of each other. Many a time I have passed a poor soul cold and hungry on the street and the best I can offer is food. I long to give them shelter but in this day and age we do not dare to expose ourselves. Exactly the same with hitch hikers. My parents had many friends who they had met by giving them a lift. I do donate to Shelter but it is not enough and feel a sense of guilt with my empty room

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