The Parable of the Good American 10/23/2003

One day a politician asked, "What does this country have to do to prosper?"

A wise man replied, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

The politician said, "And who is my neighbor?"

The wise man told this story: "A man was living in rural Alabama, trying to care for his family while living in abject poverty. They lived in a rundown trailer, had no sewage system, drank well water and had to drive an hour to work just to make minimum wage. His children went to some of the lowest-ranked public schools in the country. Local law enforcement threatened to throw the man in jail if he didn't install a septic tank, which the man could not afford to do.

"A reverend happened to be marching through his county. When he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. A senator came to the state and saw him, but he also passed by on the other side. Then an American, just an ordinary guy, went to where the man and his family lived. When he saw them, he took pity on them. He went and helped them, pouring out his sweat and giving of his money. Then he put the man and his family in his own car, took them to a motel and took care of him while the workmen modernized his home. The next day he took out a credit card and gave it to the motel clerk. ‘Look after him and his family,' he said, ‘and when I return, I will take care of all of their expenses.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the poor man in Alabama?"

The politician replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

The wise man told him, "Go and do the same thing."

This story is true. The people are real. Many of them live in Lowndes County, which has been dubbed part of the "Third World" of Alabama. The famous Selma-to-Montgomery March runs for over 40 miles through Lowndes County. It has been designated as a National Historic Trail. Numerous re-enactments of the 1965 civil rights march have taken place here. Yet these people do not benefit. They have been completely bypassed. Some have been arrested because they cannot afford to install septic tanks.

The majority of these people are not lazy. They are not drug addicts. They are not welfare junkies.  They work hard, love their families, attend church and help each other in a way that is unusual in most middle-class neighborhoods. But they are dirt poor.

The Taylor family has lovingly and faithfully raised their five children in Lowndes County. One son recently served in the Middle East, helping to protect our freedoms and privileges. Mr. Taylor's elderly parents are incapacitated, so he feeds them every day through a tube. This man exemplifies the spirit of America. He is a man of great character. Yet, he and his family seem to be overlooked by society.

I, for one, will not let them be ignored any more. I will help them. I will write columns, speak on television, communicate with our political leaders and support the humanitarian relief financially until something changes. I will seek to be one "Good American." I hope you will, too.



Author: James Robison

Word Count: 550

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes. For more information, log on to www.lifetoday.org.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.