Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Good Samaritan

I think many of us have heard the maxim "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions." I see two ways to interpret this. The first is that though we have good intentions, if we don't follow through with them, we'll have actually done no good and thus merit residency in Hell.[1] The second is that even though we mean to do well, sometimes our actions result in pain and misery for others.[2] In 2005 I lost my jump drive while walking from a computer lab to my Creative Writing class. I went back looking for it, but it wasn't in the computer lab, in the classroom, or anywhere in between. Someone had to have picked it up. I checked the BYU Lost and Found daily for a month, but it never reappeared. I composed the following poem for the person that I presume picked up my jump drive.[3] It demonstrates both interpretations of the maxim: a kind act unfinished (and thus better left unstarted) and a thoughtless kind act with terrible consequences.

Behold a certain student walked
And said within herself that day,
“I’ll serve the Lord with all my might
And love my neighbor as myself.”

Not long had passed before she spied
Upon the ground a ring and said,
“I’ll serve this person in their need
And take this to the Lost and Found.”

She put the ring inside her purse
And marveled at its shiny play—
The mark of someone affianced;
It surely would, ere long, be missed.

Not soon thereafter she descried
But half a meal upon the grass
Abandoned ’fore it could be ate—
A blemish on the campus ground.

She scooped it up and walked with it
Unto the nearest garbage can
And tossed it in with modest charm—
Now there is beauty all around.

But there were things she did not see—
The ripples of a butterfly…
…that caused a storm in far Peking—
Because of her kind-hearted deeds.

A man returned to end his meal…
But no! His lunch had wandered off
And so he spent the afternoon
In fear he’d need some insulin.

The sugar in his blood sank low
And paramedics came for him;
There wasn’t time enough to save
This victim of benevolence.

Ten steps behind her was a girl
Who searched the ground so frantically
To find the ring she’d lost that day
Before her love should see its lack.

But two years on, the student cleaned
The contents of her tattered purse
To put them in a new-bought bag
And found that ring from long ago.

The love it marked was now long dead
’Twas trampled by an act of love
And left upon the wayside stripped
And wounded: Go and do not likewise.


[1] Latter-day Saints (Mormons) do not share the conventional view of Hell. For us it is a state of misery where unrepentant souls go to await the resurrection and final judgment. However, all souls (with a few exceptions that would take too long to explain) are awarded a degree of happiness. But only the righteous receive full happiness dwelling in the presence of God.

[2] A good example of this is the driver who will stop to let a single pedestrian (not at a crosswalk) cross the road, forcing the ten drivers behind them to stop, too. Total kind acts: 1. Total unkind acts: 10. Net: 9 unkind acts.

[3] I choose to believe that if someone has it, that they passively stole it rather than actively stealing it.

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