Image from PxHere.

Annually on 19 August, we commemorate World Humanitarian Day. Twenty years ago on 19 August 2003, the United Nations lost 22 colleagues in an attack on the United Nations in Baghdad, Iraq. The tragedy profoundly changed the way in which humanitarians operate – from being respected, to being targeted – and led to the creation of World Humanitarian Day. (World Humanitarian Day)

For this day, we share Sr Helen’s story on a ‘Good Samaritan’.

It is early Sunday evening and I had just dropped Kerry, my niece, off at the bus station. My mind was preoccupied with thinking of how she would cope. An 18-year-old young woman on a 20 hour bus journey to stay with a friend of mine in the dry area of northwest Brazil. Very different from the tropical city of Salvador and although with no language but enough food for the journey in her bag, she was keen to embrace this new experience.

My doubts were just fading when “clunk!”, the engine of the car cut out. I was travelling 100km an hour on the major arterial highway out of Salvador. With enough momentum, I glided the car to the side wondering what in earth had happened. Stationary, I tried the keys and was greeted with a barely audible “click”. Nothing, absolutely nada, nada, nada! Kerry, 1000 km from her destination and me, 20km from mine, yet she was the lucky one!

I had 30 minutes to get back to Nova Esperança to lead a Eucharistic celebration in my local community. Knowing next to nothing about engines I still raised the hood and could barely make out the different parts but enough to see no steam rising. Opening the boot, I took out the fluorescent triangle sign and placed it on the highway and began pounding the gates of heaven for a Good Samaritan to pass by.

There were hundreds of cars whizzing by as I waved my arms to attract attention. Surely a woman stopped on the side of a highway begging for help would touch the conscience of someone. Several police cars pass by and still nothing. With my arms growing tired I noticed a shape in the distance. Someone on a push bike. As he came closer, I called out to him, thinking him to be one of the enlightened who chose to bike to work instead of driving a car. My feelings of relief were dashed as he pulled up beside me smelling like a brewery, but at least he had stopped.

I asked if he had a mobile phone. Great, he did, but no credit and it was flat! Asking where the nearest petrol station was, feeling sure that help could be found there, he pointed up the hill about 300 metres away. Not wanting to leave the car so far from the petrol station, I asked if he could help me push it up that hill, and without hesitation, he placed his bike in the boot and the two of us, side by side, pushed the car. Finally, opposite the petrol station embarrassed, I offered him all I had to thank him for his help, three reais! With a smile he tells me I’ll need it more than he and waves me goodbye.

My Good Samaritan, one who had nothing to lose, was the one who helped. I question myself to this day, what am I clinging onto that stifles my capacity to allow compassion to dictate my actions?

Helen Caughley rsj