Slow down to be a Good Samaritan

Author: Martin Brown

Slow down to be a Good Samaritan

There are times when I get too busy that I forget to be nice.

I wonder if it was the same for the Priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Let me tell you about an interesting experiment someone ran with seminarians as guinea pigs (From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior).

The seminarians were recruited to help with a religious study that involved various activities and questionnaires. They were told to do one activity in one building then another activity in another building.

On the way to the other building they would encounter a man slumped in a darkened alleyway whose condition was unclear – drunk, hurt?

The man groaned once and coughed twice with each group. The tasks were varied so that one group had been thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan and the other about seminary jobs when they encountered the man.

The sense of urgency or rush was also varied, telling one group they were late, one they were a little rushed and one group that they had a little time but should head over to the next building soon.

Seminarians’ responses to the man in the darkened alleyway were then noted, from failing to recognise the victim as in need all the way up to refusing to leave him, or insisting on taking him somewhere.

Hurry up and forget

The results showed that those who had been thinking about the Good Samaritan did generally show a higher response level to the person in need (29% up to 53% for those who’d been thinking about the parable).

But by far the biggest shift was around how hurried the people were.

If they were in a low hurry group, 63% helped, if in a medium hurry 45% helped and if in a high hurry only 10% helped.

The moral of the story: if you are too busy, you will not be as good a Samaritan. Or to put it in a more positive way: if you can find a way to slow down, to become less hurried, then you will be a better Samaritan.

My chaplain at university said that if we were engaged in a religious task – coming to Mass for example, and someone needed help, then stop and help them. He wouldn’t mind us turning up for Mass ten minutes late, or even missing Mass completely if we helped that person. And, he said, God wouldn’t mind either.

For me being busy is the number one reason I forget to pay attention to people, to listen to them, to treat them with dignity.

I am generally a busy person, and I am a forgetful person too. Most of the time when I’m talking to someone I don’t remember that they are made in the image of God, that they are a child of God. I forget to look past appearances.

Ways to remember

I need mementos to help. Simple little things that will help me remember. Some people keep things in their pockets, a stone, a cross, anything (small) that will remind them to look deeper and respect people.

One of my tools to living a better life is to have anthems, songs that stick in my mind and help me remember.

However, more than anything I find that if I spend time in prayer, I am distracted less, forget less and am less focussed on myself.

Spend some decent time every day praying if you possibly can. Call on the Holy Spirit.

It’s the best thing we can do to become closer to God and to be followers who reflect his love more and more.

As Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium: “Keeping our missionary fervour alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly.” EG 280.


  • Martin Brown is CAFOD manager for Arundel & Brighton diocese.

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