The little train rumbled over the tracks. She was a happy little train. Her cars were filled with toy animals… There were dolls and the funniest little toy clown you ever saw. But that was not all. Some cars were filled with good things for boys and girls to eat – and lollipops for after meal treats. The little train was carrying all these wonderful things to the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
Who was this man? What brought him from Jerusalem to Jericho?
The road to Jericho was a main thoroughfare for travelers. Eighteen miles of barren dry terrain descending down over 2,600 feet in elevation where bandits hid easily to pounce on their prey.
Then all of a sudden she stopped. She simply could not go another inch. Her wheels would not turn!
Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
The barren narrow road held no saving grace. No food. No water. No shelter. A dying man blocked the path and those who passed went to great lengths to avoid him. Was he a nauseating bloody mess? Were they in a hurry? Were they on an important mission? So important they couldn’t be detained by this man’s brokenness?
“Here comes a shiny new engine,” said the little clown who jumped out of the train…
But the Shiny New Engine snorted: “I pull you? I am a Passenger Engine. My train has sleeping cars and a dining car with waiters. I pull the likes of you? Indeed not!” And off he steamed.
Soon the little clown called out, “Look! A great big strong engine is coming.”…
“I have just pulled a train with big heavy machines. I am a very important engine indeed. I won’t pull the likes of you!” And the big engine puffed off.
Hope dwindles. Why won’t anyone stop? Am I that helpless that I am a hopeless cause? Am I not good enough? Important enough? Why doesn’t the pain, the heartache, just stop?
The little train and all the dolls and toys were very sad. “The Big Engine is not the only one in the world,” cried the little toy clown. “Here comes another. He looks very old and tired, but our train is so little, perhaps he can help us.”
Maybe I’m just a small burden to others. Maybe if I sweep in quietly, lightly, unthreatening, just maybe someone recognizing my pain will respond out of empathy.
But the Rusty Old Engine sighed: “I am so tired. I must rest my weary wheels. I cannot pull even so little a train as yours over the mountain. I can not. I can not. I can not.” And off he rumbled.
By now the dolls and toys were ready to cry.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
“I’m not very big. I have never been over the mountain. But I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” And the Little Blue Engine hitched herself to the train. She tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged and slowly, slowly, slowly they started off.
Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. “I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can.” Up, up, up. Faster and faster the little engine climbed, until at last they reached the top of the mountain.
“Hurray, hurray,” cried the little clown and all the dolls and toys. “The good little boys and girls in the city will be happy because you helped us!”
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”-Mark 12:30-31
The obvious point of the good Samaritan story is that we should love our neighbor, no matter how broken or difficult they are. This story and “The Golden Rule” are well accepted in society as common sense good morals. It’s just good teaching. However, when you look a little deeper, your eyes are opened to the between the lines.
Like the little train, we see a deeper context to the story. It gives our imagination a glimpse into what could be the missing details in the story of the Good Samaritan.
The train had dolls and toys and good things to eat for little girls and boys in the city. Won’t it make them so happy!
We don’t know who the man was. We don’t know where he was going. We don’t know why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop and why the Samaritan did. All we know is that he was the one that did the right thing. In fact, he went above and beyond the right thing. We focus on how we could be like the Good Samaritan – and we should be like him – but how often do we stop and ponder about how we might be like the robbed and beaten man. The man in this story whom we know the least about. Was he from Jerusalem or from Jericho? Was he visiting family? Was he on important business? Was he just a wandering soul? We don’t know and it doesn’t matter because he is you and me.
I am the robbed, beaten, unconscious, wounded man with nothing left in the world. I’m not good enough for the priest to take notice. I’m too much of a bother for the Levite to take notice. I’m hanging on for dear life and completely helpless. Both The Little Engine and The Good Samaritan struggled in their journey – one struggling to get up, one struggling to descend. They both struggled to help a stranger they didn’t need to help. Both the little train and the injured man struggled to accomplish their mission.
My struggle to ascend and descend is my reality. Ascend from depression. Descend for anxiety. Getting out of bed. Relaxing my mind and body.
Spending time in the Rocky Mountains has shown me that there is just as much struggle and strain in climbing up a mountain as going down. They stress your body in different ways. However, the success of both the ascent and the descent gives equal reward.
When my son was just shy of two-years-old I read him The Little Engine That Could one night before bed. When the second train refused to help, his lip started to shake. By the time the dolls and toys started to cry he was bawling. Someone help that sweet little train! We finished the story and celebrated the happy ending. He asked me to read it again. Then again. Each time he sobbed. Each time laughing when the celebration began.
My son is now 3 ½ years old and still loves this classic and I love reading it to him. It reminds me, not only of the act of the Good Samaritan, but also that when I’m beaten down and broken, it happens on the way to something meaningful. Something purposeful. Something beautiful. Like bringing dolls and toys and good things to eat to the good little boys and girls that need them.
When you travel with purpose, the mountain will not break you.