Good Samaritan

中国日报网 2016-01-05 10:45



Good Samaritan

Reader question:

Please explain “a good Samaritan act” in this: It was like a good Samaritan act for him to stop and help….

My comments:

If you help out someone in need, it is a good Samaritan act.

It is a good Samaritan act, that is, if you do it simply because you are a helpful person, without giving any thought to reward or compensation. In other words, help for help’s sake. No other considerations. No ulterior motives. No asking for money in return or that sort of thing.

Two weeks ago, when we had the snow, the roads became slippery at dusk. I saw a man help a motor bike driver out like a good Samaritan. The motor bike rider was a food delivery boy. He crashed due to the snow hardening into ice and due to a particularly large load. And boys being boys, he was not being particularly careful, I could see that. Then, from about 20 meters away I witnessed the middle aged man help him to his feet and reload his bike. When I came closer, I heard the elder man tell the youth to, like, “go slow and do not hit the brake hard.” The boy thanked him and they parted ways with no more ado.

That’s a good Samaritan act, pure and simple.

A good Samaritan act, by the way, is a good deed done typically by a Samaritan, someone who helps others out of compassion and not for any particular selfish reason. The story of the Samaritan comes from the Christian Bible, in a parable told by Jesus. It goes like this – verbatim, from Luke 10:25-37 (New King James Version):

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[c] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

All right. Here are a few examples of recent Samaritan acts in the media:

1. In 2007 the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the body which has the final say in the state on whether executions should go ahead, made a solemn promise. Troy Davis, the prisoner who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7pm local time on Wednesday, would never be put to death unless there was “no doubt” about his guilt.

Here are 10 reasons why the board – which decided on Tuesday to allow the execution to go ahead – has failed to deliver on its promise and why a man who is very possibly innocent will be killed in the name of American justice.

1. Of the nine witnesses who appeared at Davis’s 1991 trial who said they had seen Davis beating up a homeless man in a dispute over a bottle of beer and then shooting to death a police officer, Mark MacPhail, who was acting as a good samaritan, seven have since recanted their evidence.

2. One of those who recanted, Antoine Williams, subsequently revealed they had no idea who shot the officer and that they were illiterate – meaning they could not read the police statements that they had signed at the time of the murder in 1989. Others said they had falsely testified that they had overheard Davis confess to the murder.

3. Many of those who retracted their evidence said that they had been cajoled by police into testifying against Davis. Some said they had been threatened with being put on trial themselves if they did not co-operate.

4. Of the two of the nine key witnesses who have not changed their story publicly, one has kept silent for the past 20 years and refuses to talk, and the other is Sylvester Coles. Coles was the man who first came forward to police and implicated Davis as the killer. But over the past 20 years evidence has grown that Coles himself may be the gunman and that he was fingering Davis to save his own skin.

- Troy Davis: 10 reasons why he should not be executed,, September 21, 2011.

2. A Michigan employee was fired for leaving his post to help a man extinguish his car fire, and those who support Good Samaritans want to know why.

David Bowers, 62, is a retail greeter at Meijer, a Midwest chain retail store. He was fired after he left his designated area during a shift in mid-November to help extinguish a car fire in the parking lot. The man whose car he saved, Ken Kuzon, wants to know why a do-gooder like Bowers should be punished, reports The Associated Press.

Can someone like Bowers be fired for being a Good Samaritan?

Bowers, like many employees, was likely hired by Meijer as an “at-will” employee, meaning that he could be fired by his employer on the spot for almost any reason.

In a statement released by Meijer, the retailer explained that employees need to follow “well-established safety procedures for emergency situations,” and suggested that Bowers violated these rules when he left his post to put out the car fire, reports the AP.

Meijer didn’t necessarily need to cite company policy in response to terminating an at-will employee. Other than for public relations reasons, Bowers’ firing could have been entirely arbitrary, as long as Meijer didn’t fire him for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

Bowers might have had a case against Meijer if it was somehow illegal to keep him at his post instead of helping douse the flaming car. However, except for in special circumstances, there is no legal obligation to help someone in need, even if that someone is literally going up in flames.

There are laws called “Good Samaritan” laws, but those laws act to shield Good Samaritans from being sued by the people they save. These laws do not make it a crime not to help a person in need, nor do they protect Good Samaritans like Bowers from being fired.

Maybe this problem with terminating employees for acting on conscience is deeper rooted than Bowers’ case. Another Michiganian was fired in October for helping an assault victim in the parking lot of the Walmart where he worked, reports USA Today.

Although the negative media coverage of his story may have forced Walmart to quickly offer that Good Samaritan his job back, it does indicate how little moral action plays into employment decisions.

- Yes, You Can Get Fired for Being a Good Samaritan,, December 17, 2013.

3. Then it happened to me.

At the end of a trip home to see my parents, I let my then-4-year-old son wait by himself in a car while I ran into a store. He needed headphones to watch a video on our flight home. Someone filmed me leaving him, going into the store, coming out, and driving off, and promptly called the police. Ultimately I was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor – a charge most people associate with buying beer for underage teenagers – and, with the aid of lawyers I was only able to afford through family generosity, arranged to perform 100 hours of community service and take parenting lessons. In return, the county prosecutor decided not to pursue the matter any further.

After I wrote a story about what happened, Monique, Dawn and Courtney all reached out to me individually through social media, looking for guidance as they navigated the particulars of their cases. The legal aspects. The social services. The staggering personal distress that comes from having a reasonable and informed decision turned into a condemnation of you as a parent by an utter stranger.

These cases fly in the face of logic and statistics on actual dangers: A child is far more likely to be killed or injured in a moving vehicle than in a stationary one; if a child is going to be abducted, far more often the culprit is a family member, not a stranger. Yet parents continue to be harassed and arrested for allowing children to play in a park unsupervised, walk alone to a friend’s house, or wait in a car for a few minutes. The boogeyman of “stranger danger” that my generation grew up haunted by and that continues to loom darkly over the parenting landscape – “Unsolved Mysteries” mutates into “To Catch a Predator” – was never much of a threat to begin with. A news cycle overrun with statistically unlikely horror stories is bad enough for an exhausted mother or father, frayed nerves and all. What makes this current situation worse is the climate of judgment that seems to have permeated the national consciousness. There is a moral vigilantism about parenting that, as with all forms of vigilantism, veers far into paranoia.

In the months that followed my ordeal, I struggled to see myself as that stranger had seen me—not a mother running an errand, making a judgment call, juggling demands, but a criminal, a threat to my own child’s safety, a social problem to be dealt with as quickly and as anonymously as possible. This distance between how I saw myself (an anxious, generally overprotective parent) and how this stranger had seen me (a threat to my child) was the most surreal aspect of the experience. I couldn’t bridge the gap, and even after my essay was published, I was still straddling it. A friend emailed me a mock congratulations after the essay began to spread. “Oh, Kim,” he wrote. “Do you realize how much you’ve done for kid-in-car stock photography?” I laughed when I read it, but it was an agonized laugh. He was right. We experience each other in thumbnails, in status updates and sound bites. In cases of genuine emotional distress, the actual pain – rather than the controversial facts – almost always goes unnoticed. I became very curious about this stranger: Who was this person who had meant to prevent pain but had only caused it?

Last summer, I was interviewed by a television newsmagazine about my experience. (I was on right after the bit about getting hit by lightning inside your house). As a lead-in to my segment, the show produced a short feature where a baby doll was left alone in a car seat on a hot day. I think it made crying noises or made some other signal of distress. Passersby, on hidden camera, were filmed confronting the “mother,” telling her how wrong she was to leave her baby, how she couldn’t do that, how the police were being called, while the “mother” herself dismissed their concerns as a violation of her personal rights.

Lately, I’ve become as interested in these people who call the police on women like myself as I am in the victims of this new type of harassment. And when I think about them, it’s not indignation I feel but sadness and regret at how little any of us know about each other’s lives. I see these good samaritans slowing down in a parking lot, resisting the anonymity of modern life, wanting to help but unsure of what to do, of how to reach out or engage. I see them grappling with this uncertainty for the briefest moment, then reaching for the phone. We’re raising our kids in a moment when it’s easier to call 911 than to have a conversation.

- “What a horrible mother:” How a call from a “good samaritan” derailed these mothers’ lives, by Kim Brooks,, April 19, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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