Throughout the evening we had clapped the skin off the palms of our hands and stamped the soft pile carpet till it was worn through to the floorboards. Some of us whistled until our mouths were dry. To be in the company of such great and mighty men and women was a privilege. It was well worth the money we had paid for our tickets.
We hailed celebrities as they were paraded on stage one after another. Crystal trophies, one after another, glinted in the spotlights. Speeches that blessed managers and directors echoed from the loudspeakers. Mothers and wives, followers and fans were all thanked, leading up to the last and most prestigious award.
“The Agatha-Kingston Award for Outstanding Acts of Kindness goes to….
The pyro-technicians pressed their buttons and a shower of blue sparks cascaded down in the manner of waterfall.
We turned from facing the stage to exchange puzzled expressions.
It was agreed that Jacob was aptly named. He was not much more than five feet tall. Had he stood behind the podium as the other giants of achievement had done, we would have seen nothing but a tuft of grey hair. His suit, liberated from the back of the wardrobe and dusted down, bore the musky smell of mothballs, strong enough to penetrate the first half dozen tables at the front of the room. The wide, lilac brushed satin lapels were out of fashion.
He coughed and the microphone in his hand erupted with an ear-splitting wail.
“I don’t expect that my name means anything to you…and I would hope that by the end of the night my name will still not mean anything to you.”
A hush drifted through the room, quelling our whispers and gently pushing us back into our seats. We felt the tug of curiosity like fish caught on a line.
“It will, perhaps, surprise no one that I have done nothing remarkable or worthy of honour. My name hasn’t littered the pages of the society columns. I haven’t embarrassed myself with a lack of talent of a reality show. I would like to think it is modesty that forbids me to boast of my deeds…but truth to be told…there are no noble deeds to speak of. Indeed, I have only a foolish deed to present to you.”
Jacob was a born storyteller. The setting of his tale was the notorious road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the hideout of bandits and robbers. None of us doubted the foolishness of his travelling the road alone. He showed us the scars from the beating he received, tracing a scarlet path from forehead to chin and pointing out a badly mauled ear.
“They left me for dead…and almost dead I was. I imagined every breath to be my last.”
Suddenly two devoted temple workers appeared on the same road. A collective sigh of relief was released. Eyes were lifted heavenwards as some of us breathed “Praise God!” Alas it was a short lived ray of hope.
“They passed by on the other side of the street. I have thought long and hard about their actions. It does not seem to line up with what I have been taught about a loving God.”
He paused, allowing us too little time to think as long and hard as he had done, but we all had our own experiences of actions that failed to demonstrate the nature of a loving God to those in need.
“There was a third man…”
A sharp intake of breath. A ripple of alarm flared up. We all knew about Samaritans. Jacob’s predicament had suddenly taken on a darker hue.
“..who stopped to help.”
This unexpected twist in the tale made us uneasy. To think that Samaritans might be capable of acts of kindness was unimaginable. Our long held prejudices were being assailed.
As Jacob continued his narrative, it seemed that the man’s kindness went beyond what was expected. The pile of coins spilled into the palm of the innkeeper was lavish and extravagant, and there was a promise of more when he came back that way.
“I accept this award on behalf of that man. I don’t know his name and I never had the chance to thank him. If anyone deserves this award, it is that good Samaritan.”
He held the trophy aloft. The response was slow and hesitant but our tide of clapping swelled with stamps and whistles.
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