Igor was relating the parable of the Good Samaritan to us. To be honest, I was wondering throughout the whole time why he was painstakingly telling us all the details of this parable. Surely he must know that this is a well-known parable and we are well aware of this story. After all, I am a minister and that should count for something. Igor knows this. We even did a bible study together on this story. Now he was recounting the parable to us as if we never heard it before. Then, it occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, I should just listen and stop whatever I was doing mentally. He wants to tell us something important and the Good Samaritan is central to it. It is his story and I have to put my ego aside and listen as if it was the first time I heard this parable. After all, it is the first time ever hearing it from Igor. He believes that he has something new to bring to the table.
He called us a few days ago and wanted to meet with us. At first, I thought something was wrong. Unfortunately, my mind is prone to pessimism. We haven’t heard from him for a while and we tend to take comfort in the no news is good news mindset. However, we know that this is not always the case. This is why hearing Igor’s voice on the phone, I got a little nervous. Igor is living with his aunt presently. He is reconciled with his aunt after fifteen years. His mother was murdered trying to protect this very aunt. Despite his mother’s sacrifice for their sibling, Igor and his aunt were never on good terms. We are not sure why. However, whatever the problem was between them, it got resolved. She accepted her nephew into her household.
He had been living in the streets for 13 years prior to this. At the age of 20, he decided that he did not want to be homeless anymore. It took a lot of courage on his part to leave everything behind. Both parents were dead. His brother was shot by the police in a robbery attempt. The only family he had known since he was seven was the other teens and children in the streets. He was loved by them too. However, Igor knew that this adopted street family was volatile. It did not have the foundation for something more concrete and lasting. He wanted something better and durable for his life. He yearned for peace and fulfillment. He knew that it required sacrifice and determination. He was willing to make the former but it was hard to be determined and persevere to reach his goal on his own and alone in this world. It was at this time when God brought us together.
Igor took the initiative. He approached us first. He asked how many languages we spoke and expressed an interested in languages. This was really just his attempt to connect with us. We naturally grabbed this opening and offered to teach him English; something he accepted enthusiastically. We started meeting with him regularly for English lessons. We took him to a public library which was ironically situated in the square where they slept. However, he would have never entered this place on his own. It was such an irony. He was so close to place filled with all kinds of information and knowledge that he was interested in knowing and yet his low self-esteem was the only obstacle that prevented him from entering its doors. Even with us, he was just comfortable sitting outside on the benches of the library to learn basic English conversations.
Our lessons usually ended with long conversations about life in general. Needless to say, our friendship got stronger as Igor found the courage to confide in us. Igor even commented once that he never had friends who were like parents to him. This was three years ago. Here we are today, sitting with this young man who had been to the Juvenile detention at least ten times since he was eight relating the story about the Good Samaritan. A few years ago, he would have been talking about drugs and crime and today he is interested in sharing about God. He has been going to church twice a week and is actively involved in the youth program. His greatest struggle has been finding a job. He hasn’t held a steady job since he left the streets. All the jobs available want someone with experience. Igor has only dealt with crime most of his life. Money was never an issue for him when he lived in the streets. Nowadays, he can barely pay the bus fare to visit us. However, he wanted to see us. It has been months since we last spoke. Recently, he started a woodworking course. He received some financial aid from a church to pay for his bus fare to and fro from this course. He managed to save some of this money and use it to visit us. It was important for him to be with us now. It was important for us to listen to what he has to say even though I knew the story by heart.
Finally he got to the moment when the Good Samaritan appeared in the story. Igor went on to explain that Samaritans were considered outcasts and yet it did not hinder this particular one from helping a man who despised him. He concluded that God uses people whom we least expect. Then he said that we were the good Samaritans in his life. He never expected people like us to appear in his life and God used us to bring him hope and peace in a moment when he thought that he was just abandoned for dead. This was the insight that Igor wanted to bring to this story. He continued to say that the other teens and children did not see what God was doing through us. He doesn’t know why he felt something different and decided to take the step to approach us. He hopes that one day his adopted street family will see what he saw in us.
Mary and I responded with silence. I was humbled by what he said and at the same time, I was a little embarrassed and ashamed of myself. My mind was obsessed with our knowledge of the biblical stories and I almost missed a wonderful gift this young man was giving me. He thought that it was important was us to know that he understood our presence in his life. He was giving us a Christmas present. Igor reiterated that one day God will reward us for the time and energy we put into our relationship with him. Mary said that waiting wasn’t necessary, we have already received it. She is right. Igor is our reward. We don’t need anything else. He is our eternal Christmas gift from God.