Friday, March 18, 2011

My Walk With The Good Samaritan

Living in Central Pennsylvania we get to see a lot of beautiful wildlife.  Unfortunately, we also get to see a lot of roadkill.  It's just a fact of life.  Usually by the time our paths cross on the road, the animal has been creamed recognizably into the pavement.  But not today.  Today, as I drove my kids to preschool, I spotted something very recognizable and very much still intact on the road:  It was a dead male cardinal with bright red feathers, perfectly intact, with no sign of damage.

Had it been a raccoon or a squirrel or any other bird, I would have passed right by, but this was a CARDINAL, the most beautiful and brilliant of birds --and my former high school mascot--so I just could not bear to drive on and allow it to get demolished by passing cars.  As a "fellow cardinal" I felt obligated to give it a "respectable burial" or at least get it off the road.

I pulled a disposable ziploc container out of the back of my car and parked on the opposite side of the street.  I approached it slowly to make sure it was actually dead.  Then I swiftly scooped the lifeless bird up into the disposable container, using the lid to guide it.  

It's feathers were quite pristine.  I showed him to the children who remained buckled in their car seats, and for a second I considered taking him home and burying him in my backyard.  I decided that might be a bit weird, so instead I tossed him gently into the adjacent wooded area between two fields where he most likely had worn out his days anyway.  I felt good about my decision.

Looking back on the experience, I learned a couple of things.  First of all, I really had no reason to stop and help this bird.  He was already dead.  But when I spotted him, I felt an immediate emotional reaction.  In addition to honoring life and nature in general, I too had gone by the name of "cardinal" in years past.  It was a symbol--significant to my life--that I just could not turn my back on.  I started to wonder how indentifying with others affects my willingness to help and serve them.

Last week, I told my children the parable of the Good Samaritan.  During our discussion, I wondered aloud why the  Samaritan was the one who decided to stop and help the man in the road and not the Jewish priest or the temple worker who merely kept walking or crossed to the other side of the street to avoid helping the injured man.  

I'm sure there are many reasons, and my observations are just elementary, but today the thought came to me that perhaps the "Good Samaritan" had seen a wee bit of himself in the injured person lying in the road and decided to help despite the fact that the two had so many differences, so many reasons to dislike each other, he chose to see their common bond - that they were both brothers in humanity.  

Perhaps as we look past what divides us in life, and see commonalities instead, we too can see everyone as our "neighbor" and our brothers and sisters and become more willing to stop along our way to help one another.  And as we do this, perhaps it will become an emotional/gut reaction that we simply cannot ignore or walk away from someone who is suffering.  For isn't this the nature of Christ himself who the scriptures tell us has taken on our infirmities so that his bowels may be filled with mercy toward us?  Filled to the point that His mercy cannot be withheld from those who are suffering.  The Good Samaritan is symbolic of the Savior himself.

And he truly is filled with compassion toward each one of us...even tiny birds.  I felt that as I stopped by the side of the road that day.  I felt that he knew this bird. I felt that he was aware of each and every person killed in the tsunami in Japan recently.  I felt that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

As I scooped up that bird, this scripture ran through my mind, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not therefore: Ye are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:6-7).


  1. remember the side stories of the Good Samaritan. There were valid reasons why the initial passerbys passed the injured man by. Sacred reasons for at least one. But it's how we use our time and our views that is the bigger picture. Gotta say i wish you had buried the red guy....but that's me.

  2. I don't think you had to bury the bird but gave him a natural burial in his wooded area. A powerful story-good job teaching and learning gospel have a wonderful book/blog to share with others.

  3. This was a lovely thought to be reflected upon for days to come. thx

  4. What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It was fantastic!

  5. It's lovely that you stopped to honor the cardinal as you did. Just lovely.


  6. You are brave to go into the road 1 and 2 that you had the guts to pick the bird up. I do like very much the life application. Nephi talks about likening scripture to us. What a great visual experience.

    I think each time I pass roadkill that is still intact that the body deserves better than to be run into the pavement. I think that I should carry a shovel in the back of my car. My concern though is the car behind me will make me roadkill as they are driving at 60 mph.

  7. I loved this post and your thoughts on it, especially the fact that although we may have differences, we're all brothers and sisters.