Compassionate art

The Good Samaritan is rightfully one of the most recognised parables of the New Testament. It’s the universal, empathetic response to suffering which we know in our hearts is the right one. I love it because it kicks in the teeth the cold-hearted (but all too common) response to suffering – “don’t get involved”.

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Should you have a case of parable amnesia here’s a re-cap. A man, assumed to be Jewish, is travelling along a road and it attacked, robbed and so badly beaten he’s left for dead. Two people pass by the seriously injured man and ignore him, but the next person who comes along is a Samaritan who stops and renders assistance. He tends to the man’s wounds, puts him on his donkey, takes him to an inn where he can recover and pays for his accommodation, telling the proprietor he will return to reimburse him for any additional costs for the man’s care. This Samaritan didn’t just help; he got deeply involved in alleviating a stranger’s suffering.

The Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other so to a contemporary audience this act of compassion and the portrayal of a hated Samaritan in such a positive light would have been shocking. Today the parable is popular in liberation theology, where it is seen as exemplifying Jesus’s humanitarian ethics and is often quoted as typical of his teachings in which conventional expectations are inverted.

The kind-heartedness at the core of the Good Samaritan parable lifts it from a purely Biblical context to an international one. The colloquial phrase ‘a good Samaritan’ has evolved into a common metaphor for someone who helps out, or rescues, a needy stranger.

Here in the Hunter we have a specific social welfare organisation, the Samaritans, which operate over 100 services throughout Newcastle and the Hunter Valley and slightly further afield to the Central Coast, mid-north Coast and Central Western regions. Samaritans is part of the Anglican Church within the Diocese of Newcastle and has been running outreach services for over a century. The organisation summarizes its values as compassion, integrity and justice and explains its client-approach clearly, ‘our support is tailored to your needs’.

The list of their services is exhausting: respite care and homeless crisis accommodation, family counselling, specialist adolescent services, disability support, early intervention programs, brokerage services, support for carers, health programs, resilience building projects, delivering disaster recovery and emergency relief, running early learning centres and family day care, financial and gambling counselling and support programs for men exiting prison. This is a good organisation.

It’s a no brainer to look at that list and guess that the demand for these vital services quickly outstrips the resources available to deliver them. This is why fundraising is so critical. For the last nine years the West End has been the site of a major fundraiser for the Samaritans called Collectors Care, a collaborative exhibition of affordable art work. All items are priced at a maximum of $1,000, with a 35 per cent commission on each sale going directly to the Samaritans Foundation.

After being shown at the Hunter Street campus of TAFE gallery for eight years this year Collectors Care moved to the gallery of the Hunter Design School, whose sunshine yellow doorway is one of the new landmarks in the Parry Street cul-de-sac. The show was curated by Gael Davies and art work ranged from traditional paintings and prints to objects, including a funky range of painted suitcases and tiny glass sculptures. I went all warm and fuzzy to see how many had been sold. Original artwork at an affordable price and over $11,000 raised for a deeply benevolent organisation. It can’t help but make you smile – another great West End story.

One last word on the parable though. After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, which was in response to the question “if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves – who then constitutes our neighbour?” it didn’t end there. Having told of the Samaritan’s compassion for someone who should have been his social enemy Jesus made it clear that this had relevance to everyone, imploring his listeners to “go and do likewise”. Indeed; a wisdom which stretches across time and beyond all faiths.

The Samaritans, 36 Warabrook Boulevard, Warabrook. PO Box 366 Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310. Phone: 4960 7100 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm) or 1300 656 336. Email: mail@samaritans.org.au. Web: http://www.samaritans.org.au. Printnova and QBE were the sponsors of the exhibition with in-kind media sponsorship from the Newcastle Herald and KO-FM.

The parable of the Good Samaritan appears in the Gospel of Luke. In the 21st Century King James version of the Bible: Chapter 10, verses 25-37. The Samaritans were people who lived in what had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Samaria, that kingdom’s capital, was located between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155.

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3 responses to “Compassionate art

  1. Well done Kimberly! Another interesting story about the sometimes, hidden gems in Newcastle’s Hunter Street West. This fascinating store-house of glimpses is just what people want. The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan is certainly timely. And.slowly, people are waking up to the fact the inner city area is not just buildings: there are some valiant champions working away. Why not take a stroll down Hunter Street today?.

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