In his short story “The Hurt Man,” Wendell Berry recounts how Nancy Beechum welcomed a complete stranger into her home after he stumbled up the street, bloodied, with a crowd of fierce, angry men chasing him. Nancy opened her door and washed the clotted blood from his body. She pressed the white rags, now crimson, onto his cuts. The hurt man trembled as Nancy spoke gently to him: ”You’re going to be all right.”

I see in Berry’s tale a parallel to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Similarly to the wounded man in Berry’s story, Jesus told how bandits attacked a Jewish man making the trek from Jerusalem to Jericho. The ruffians “stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road” (Luke 10:30).

Soon enough, however, a priest began traveling this same way. Surely this man of faith would tend to his countryman’s need! But the priest merely “crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by” (Luke 10:31). Still another neighbor happened by. This temple assistant even walked over to investigate the crime, but he too simply “passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:32).

Finally, a “despised Samaritan” (the very last person anyone would ever expect to help a Jew) saw the beaten man, “felt compassion for him [and] soothed his wounds” (Luke 10:33-34). The Samaritan carried the man on his donkey to an inn where he received care, and even covered the costs.

The Samaritan, like Nancy Beechum, refused to ignore the man’s pain and simply did what he could. The Samaritan tended to the man’s wounds the best he was able. We may think we have little to offer, but our hands (our presence and attention) can mend wounds and participate in God’s ongoing work to heal the world one person at a time.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Mark 6:1-13