It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when I was called away from a lunch with friends at a new restaurant in one of the upscale markets, to a shabby one on the backside of town for a Pizza-Hut family council.
The whole fam, plus assorted groupies, gathered around a long table piled with a literal smorgasbord of menu options. My niece kept playing “can you match the plate to the wallpaper” (I kept breaking the rules) and “what animal does my ketchup make?” (my sister-in-law dipped her pizza in it before I could guess), while my oldest nephew boxed his grandfather in the eye and I coaxed and begged and pleadingly-smiled my youngest nephew out of his “wrap” and into my arms.
Those are the perfect moments. Not the pizza-divvying and punishment-dispensing, the moment I walked out of the din and into the sunlight of the patio, with one of the newest of God’s creations blinking blearily up at me. It didn’t matter that it was a broken cement patio where shady men leered at us from the corridors and rats scampered through the rubble by where we were sitting, I was holding a little piece of eternity in my arms. (Uh . . . don’t worry this is not all going to be a gooey auntie post.)
Half an hour later, I was making my way back home, alone in an auto, when we came to the intersection of two major South Delhi roads. As we pulled up past a backed-up lane of traffic, my driver slowed suddenly and I saw the reason for the delay: a street boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, lay on his side in the road, a pool of his own blood almost surrounding him. His hands were shaking and he was calling out, but in that feeble way one does when they’re in shock. Another boy was standing at his head, and some men were running forward from somewhere in the line of traffic.
Again, there moments when the din of the world dies down, and even the roar of the traffic and the pounding of my heart went silent for that blistering half-minute. And then it was gone. We had driven on past.
Honestly, I don’t know if he was hit by a car two minutes before, or just hit at the right angle in the nose by the boy standing next to him. Often here, if someone wounded approaches you for help, bystanders will shoo them away and say it’s not even real human blood, when all I see is real human pain. A little piece of eternity lying broken out on the street.
I keep asking myself, if it had been someone I know, would I have stopped? The kid of someone I know? Even someone Indian?
Now why does that question come to mind? Because (so I make the excuse) for all I can ask myself how I would handle the situation in America or with Americans, there is just no corollary here. I’m more afraid of my utter, inherent inadequacy, than I’m afraid of the actual situation. I’m the wrong person for the job, unfamiliar with the language, the culture, emergency procedure, local help. I’m the outsider. I’m . . . well, I guess I’m the Samaritan. Except for the choice I made.
And I keep asking myself, what if he had been mine? My nephew? My niece? How quickly would I have leapt from that auto rickshaw?
The parable of the good Samaritan was told to a man who wanted to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” (Really? Who do I have to love?) And in the story the Samaritan distinguishes himself by claiming the broken man on the side of the street as his neighbor.
He claimed him as his.
“Go and do likewise,” Jesus said. Because whether or not I recognize the kid, I do know his Father. And he is mine.