Are you suffering from Good Samaritan fatigue?

As a friend and I were listening to a radio report about the humanitarian crisis in Homs, Syria, I asked her, “Do you have an urge right now to somehow help those people?”

“Yes,” she answered without hesitation.

“The problem,” I said, “is that there is a limit to how much money I can give.  I’ve already donated to victims of Katrina, the devastation in Haiti, the earthquake in Japan and the fighting in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.  There’s a limit to how much I am willing to give.”

“Not just money,” she said.  “There’s a limit to how much emotion I can give when there so many crises all around, including the aftermath of the tornado in our own state.”

That is where the problem lies.  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a guy is traveling down the road and sees a man who needs his help.  So, he feels compassion for the man and is motivated by the compassion to go beyond making a cell phone call and invests a lot of time and money into the effort to relief the man’s suffering.

But what if the Samaritan encountered that kind of scene every time he traveled down that road?  I imagine he would repress or at least manage that spontaneous urge to help and measure his ability to respond to human suffering more carefully.

I’m really curious to hear how you handle that problem, i.e. of on the one hand not repressing that urge to help on the one hand and on the other hand not letting every instance of human suffering throw you off the course and prevent you “getting something done” today.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...