Jesus often gave pictures that emphasized his teachings. One of the most famous pictures or as we call them parables is “The Good Samaritan.” Preachers use this story to motivate the audience to go out of their comfort and care for someone in need.
It is a much bigger picture. The parable was used to illustrate that righteousness (doing what is right in the eyes of God) was not about keeping the law. Instead righteousness was about extending mercy especially to those who aren’t necessarily high on our list.
The self-righteous one questioning Jesus would have loved the beginning of the parable. The priest and the Levite who did not help the beaten traveler would have been technically right in their application of the law. They would have been declared “unclean” if the suffering traveler was dead.
Jesus turns the table. The Samaritan aids the near dead man. He is the righteous neighbor. He is extending mercy and love by sacrificing for the needy man. He doesn’t figure out what is wrong. He attends to the need. Jesus has now redefined righteousness. To be righteous is to extend mercy.
Christian circles are known to spend time debating blame and causes instead of spending the energy to attend to the need. It is like we are the priest and Levite trying to figure out what is “right” so we can be relieved of the call to extend mercy. We call it love to lay blame instead of being part of a solution.
There is a need in our area that has received a lot of media attention. It is the failing grade in the Hardeeville school system. I have heard just about every angle on the issue. It’s the teachers. It’s the school system. It’s the parents. It’s the culture. Meanwhile the United Way of the Lowcountry reports that 67% of elementary school children in Jasper County cannot read at grade level. Regardless of the cause 7 out of 10 children in the school system are not reading at a level that provides hope for their future.
A recent study claims that 2/3 of students that do not read proficiently by grade 4 end up in jail or on welfare. I learned something recently I had no idea. Children learn to read by grade 4. From grade 4 on they read to learn. Therefore, if they do not read well by grade 4 the chance of success educationally and socially becomes extremely hard.
Our first response is to debate the problem. It is time to cease debate. The United Way, AmeriCorps and Crossroad Community Support Services have joined hands to address the problem. It is simple really.
A tutor program has been started. It is a one-on-one program that at this time is focused on grades 1 – 3 in 8 local elementary schools including the Jasper schools. It has the curriculum. It has the books. It only needs one thing…volunteers (men and women).
A tutor would serve a minimum of 1 hour a day assisting two children for the school year. Last year the program saw an increase in reading levels of 87% of the students involved.
I am calling on the Christian community to cease debating the problem, cease being a priest and Levi and follow the lead of The Good Samaritan. Get off our horse and give 1 hour to a child that needs to read. We as a Christian community talk all the time about people needing to read the Bible. Well, our neighbor is having a hard time reading. What do we expect?
I think what Jesus taught was to help the neighbor to read. It doesn’t cost us anything other than a little time and effort. We don’t have to build a program. It’s about caring for children in 1st through 3rd grade. They aren’t hardened criminals. They are kids. Reading may be a path that leads them away from a life of crime.
Join me. I’m going to tutor in the fall. My neighbor is in need and I’ve been on the wrong side of the road for too long. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a child who learned to read by listening to adults’ waste hours seeking someone to blame. There are 8 schools in our two counties that need help. There are too many children that can’t read well. The clock is ticking. For the 3rd graders, 4th grade is one year away.
Call 837-2000 and let them know you want to help tutor. 1 hour. 1 day a week.
For those that read this post that are not living in the Bluffton, South Carolina area I know there is need in your community somewhere. I know there are needy children within your community. I know there are suffering travelers on the path of life somewhere. Go to the school guidance department. Go to the senior citizen center. Go to the local hospital. It might be as simple as walking across the street to the single mom or dad. Weary beaten travelers are everywhere. We know it. Get on the right side of the street. Extend mercy. As Jesus taught…it is the righteousness of God.