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The Good Female Samaritan


Oct 11 2013
Does being a woman limit our Christian outreach? What I learned on the side of the road in Djibouti.

One morning while running I saw 15 wild green parrots perched on a barbed wire fence. I also saw a man I thought was dead.

This wasn't the first time. I've seen more than 15 parrots perched on that fence, and I have run by a man who actually was dead. I don't know when he died, or how, but it appeared he had spent the night sleeping in the dirt between the uneven sidewalk and the walls of shops and aluminum-sided homes. Sometime during the night while curled beneath flowering fuchsia bougainvillea, death had come for him. By the time I jogged past, a small crowd had gathered, people returning from prayers at the mosque or walking to work.

This time, the man I saw wasn't clearly dead or clearly alive, and no one was around. The man lay right there on Airport Road, the main road circling Djibouti City, not tucked away on a side street. He wasn't nestled against an aluminum wall or wooden planks, not sheltered by a bush or billboard, not laying on a scrap of cardboard. He wore a pair of dark trousers, baggy at the waist and short at the ankles, a T-shirt hiked up over a slightly rounded belly, and had a red cloth over his face.

I ran around him. It was still early, though most of the homeless men wake up before 6. If he was still there on my return leg, I would be surprised.

One hour later, he was still there. He lay on his right side with his arm as a pillow, knees slightly bent. He didn't seem to be breathing. He shouldn't have been there, not at this time, not at this spot, not without having moved. Was he dead? I kept running but something exploded in my mind. Hello, good Samaritan. The story flashed in pictures across the backs of my eyes to the soundtrack of, "Priest. Businessman. You are the one who hurried past suffering."

My mind engaged in a rapid-fire debate. To stop or not stop? What could I do? If he was dead I could flag a bus or taxi and ask them to take the body to a police station. Would they? If he was alive, what would he need? I didn't have any money with me, only a few sips of water in my bottle, so maybe he didn't want to be startled awake by a sweaty woman asking if he was alive or not.

And then there was that whole woman thing. What if he was drunk? Or crazy? Or just plain mean? He could hurt me. Also, Djibouti is a Muslim country, not extremely strict, but there are boundaries women don't cross. Boundaries such as touching men. I am adept at handing and receiving change, passing off bags, and delivering boxes without touch.

Related Topics:Africa; Charities; Gender; Service

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