Self centredness is the cancer ravaging our society's soul

A  good samaritan transporting water to a customer along the busy Thika highway stopped by to help a motorist whose car was already engulfed in  fire. [File, Standard]

You are travelling to Nanyuki and just past Naromoru the car ahead of you punctures its wheel. It zigzags and flies off the road and crashes dangerously. You are the first car to get to the accident scene: what do you picture yourself doing? Do you see yourself slowing down, lowering your car window, staring at the wreck and its victims then shaking your head as you drive past to proceed with your journey? Or do you see yourself stopping, loading the injured in your car, and rushing them to the nearest hospital?

Kenyan leaders and citizens alike -are suffocating under the weight of self-centeredness with only scattered pockets of compassion. Even where there is compassion, it still needs to be evaluated to test its authenticity because there is a type of compassion that has selfishness as its centre!

Here is a provoking piece: First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me. We have a responsibility to do good beyond our doorsteps.  The parable of the Good Samaritan exposes the bad in our community while at the same time guiding on the attitudes that build a beautiful community.

Destruction: The parable has violent people who attack an innocent man and leave him for dead. Such destroyers leave their homes in the morning to go out and intentionally harm others.  Powered by jealousy, hatred, and ill will, they lend their intellect, imagination, and creativity to the business of bringing down others. They delight in inflicting pain and their blood has malice for colour. They are the freedom snatchers, the opposite of freedom fighters.

Indifference:  The parable exposes and chastises persons who have neglected and rejected their responsibilities in the community and have taken the stance of spectators and “bypassers”.  Priests and Levites who exist for the purpose of caring for others are here addicted to selfishness that blinds them from their core business. Not a few public servants in Kenya abuse their positions by muting the public essence of their work, turning cold and indifferent towards the people they are meant to serve.

Action: The Samaritan is a man consumed by active goodness. Amid a sea of indifferent people, there is always that encounter with a person who goes above and beyond to serve. Their spirit is such that they do not need external affirmation to keep up their magnanimity – just exercising the virtue is a reward in itself! You need not “know people” to be served. Even strangers are on their radar. Such are the resuscitators - they cannot stand the sight of people suffering. Their compassion makes them life savers. 

The emerging question is: When you step out of your doorstep into the world, what do you contribute the most in – destruction, indifference, or resuscitation?  Followers of God also have a duty to convert destroyers and spectators into resuscitators.

What made the actions of the Samaritan praised by God?  

The Good Samaritan had eyes that saw clearly and saw far. He did not suffer from mini-sightedness. He was not blinded by boundaries of economic status, political affiliations, race, or religious affiliation. He did not base his response on familiarity but rather familiarised his environment with his virtues! He saw all people as neighbours.

This calls for some self-reflection: How wide do you see? Do you only see yourself living in a palatial residence or do you also see yourself facilitating boys and girls in your community to have access to quality education? May scales fall off our eyes.

The Samaritan had a heart

At one time or other, we may have experienced heartless treatment, where someone sees your situation clearly but as the phrase goes “feels nothing” about it. Jesus felt for people, a lot: “When he saw the crowd He had compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He was up a mountain at another point and looked at Jerusalem and said “Oh Jerusalem, if only you knew the time of your visitation!”  Compassion takes a heart with a deep authentic feeling. You may remember times when tears fell down your eyes due to your own pain. But when is the last time your heart ached because of the pain of another?

At an event by Equity Foundation’s Young Scholars programme, President Mwai Kibaki saw and heard the stories of the children and was moved to tears. One newspaper captured this teary moment and had progressive photographs of the President wiping tears from his eyes. The children reached his heart causing a swell of compassionate emotion. May God make our hearts tender enough to step out of our doors not with hearts of stone but with feeling, the kind of feeling that makes one do good to another, even a stranger.

The Samaritan generously spent his resources – money and time – on a stranger. Once when chatting with friends over thermoses of tea, the wife of one of my friends came and asked her husband, “Would you please give me two hundred shillings?” What I vividly remember was that while an ordinary response would be for a husband to dig into the wallet, select the two hundred shillings and hand it to the wife, my friend effortlessly and in a seeming reflex gave the wife his wallet and turned to continue with our conversation!  She asked for two hundred shillings – she was given the wallet – what an act of generosity and openness! It is a noble ambition to grow in generosity to a level where we lovingly spend ourselves and our resources towards rescuing and reconstructing the lives of others.

The Samaritan had eyes. The Samaritan had a heart. The Samaritan opened his wallet. As you step out of your door, do so with your eyes open; your heart open and your wallet open too. Such is the only way towards achieving the dream of a beautiful, abundant and beloved community.