Walking Our Faith: A modern Samaritan’s tale

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

A three-time cancer survivor in North Carolina reached out to her senator earlier this year after her husband was furloughed and she was worried about losing her health insurance.

After getting an “insensitive response” from someone on the senator’s team, who compared health care to buying a dress shirt, the woman began recording the calls, according to reporting from WRAL, a local TV station.

“You’re saying that, if you can’t afford it, you don’t get to have it, and that includes health care?” the woman asked.

“Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store and buy a new dress shirt. If I can’t afford that dress shirt, I don’t get to get it,” the senator’s staff member said.

“But health care is something that people need, especially if they have cancer,” the woman said.

“Sounds like something you’re going to have to figure out,” the staff member said later in the conversation.

We’re all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. In its broadest sense, it is about the good person who stops to help an injured man who has been passed over by others. As I began the draft of this week’s column, I wanted to discuss this parable in modern terms we could relate to easily.

And so, I wrote: Imagine for a moment that the injured man is your neighbor who was laid off during the COVID-19 shutdown. He’s normally in good health, is successful, but his job has been eliminated and he is now unemployed. He’s lost his health insurance and money is running low. He’s started going to the local food bank that his church set up, even though it embarrasses him to receive food from people he knows.

But Wednesday morning, I read the story of the woman with cancer. And I knew this parable is a fact of life for too many of us. I understand her fears and frustrations. As a part-time worker with two preexisting health conditions, private insurance is not available to me without the Affordable Care Act.

Hopefully her husband’s unemployment is temporary, and he soon will be back on his feet. But for thousands like them, what is our responsibility?

Should we thank God that we are not them and go on our way? Should we say it’s their fault to have found themselves in this dilemma? What is our responsibility as individuals, as a church, as a community, as a country?

Each time we vote, we are making a statement about our beliefs, about how we will treat the injured man. Do we realize we also are voting for how we wish to be treated?

The good Samaritan also describes the two people who first passed by the injured man without stopping to help. “Why doesn’t he pull himself up by his bootstraps?”

At some point in our lives, each of us will become the injured man, whether through unemployment, finding ourselves unable to find full-time employment with benefits, or becoming retired and dependent on Social Security and Medicare to supplement our savings.

Very few will escape one of these scenarios. How often, though, do we look at those in need and say, “I’d rather give a tax cut to the job maker than provide affordable insurance for the gig worker.”

This moment in American feels as if we have reached a point of us against them. Yet, we have always been a country at cross-purposes with its values and actions.

We claim to be one nation, under God. But if we invoke the name of God, we must accept the responsibility. Because God will not allow his holy name to be taken in vain, not by a preacher nor a president.

We must not allow ourselves to be led by those who flout the values of truth and decency formed by our religious beliefs in exchange for seats on a federal or Supreme Court.   

We must strive to model the highest principles of our country after the Sermon on the Mount or, at the very least endeavor, adhere to the primary commandment: That we love God and treat others as we wish to be treated.

In November, we are not choosing a person to lead us. We are voting on who we are as a nation. If we claim to be one nation under God, what does that demand of those who serve us, and what does it demand of us?

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at

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