These days, it’s better to be a cautious Samaritan, recent incidents show

Not sure I would have been as smart or as quick as Maggie and Ruben Paz were when three teenage boys, one bleeding from a gunshot, pounded on their door and windows looking for a place to hide. A 12:30 a.m. shooting at a nearby house party had killed one and wounded six.

“My friend’s been shot,” one of the boys screamed, begging to be let in.

The couple’s quandary: There were six young children inside the Paz home Saturday night, their own four and two nieces.

Ruben had to balance two demands: Protecting the children in their North Las Vegas home, and helping the young people outside pleading for help.

Ruben’s quick and creative solution: Don’t let them in the house but allow them to hide in the garage.

“My husband, he’s a good person,” Maggie told me Tuesday. “He was thinking: These are somebody’s kids.”

As a parent himself, he wanted to help them. Ruben, 31, let the three boys into the garage and rushed to call 911. Maggie, 27, gathered all six children and took them to hide in the master bedroom, in case any more shots were fired. “It happened so quick,” Maggie said. The police were there in five minutes, she said.

But it had to be a long five minutes for the Paz family.

What would you have done? Would you have opened the door instinctively? Called police? Ignored the pounding on the window? Would the age, sex or race of those seeking help make a difference in your actions?

Recently, a baby-faced 15-year-old named La Marcus Gamble was sentenced to prison. He and a friend had pounded on the door of Sierra Miller’s home last summer. He said someone was chasing him and his friends.

Miller, 20, was a good Samaritan. She let him in to use the phone and then offered him and his friends a ride home. For her kindness, she was beaten, robbed, shot and left for dead by the three youths. Gamble was the one who had provided the gun.

Are the days of teaching our children to be good Samaritans gone? Is the popular Sunday school Bible story out of date in today’s treacherous world?

Jesus taught you should love your neighbor as yourself. To demonstrate that, Jesus told of a Jewish man robbed, beaten and left to die by the side of a road. A priest doesn’t stop to help, nor does a Levite. But a Samaritan helped the man, even though Samaritans and Jews were traditional enemies. The Samaritan took the man to an inn and paid for his care.

Are we wise to teach our children that helping your neighbor is the right thing to do?

“Absolutely we still teach the good Samaritan story and principles,” said Pastor Jud Wilhite of the Central Christian Church, which has a combined congregation of 12,000 in Henderson and Summerlin. “I think you teach the story, but you teach it with a sense of boundaries.”

He preached recently on the good Samaritan, but he cautioned that although “the good Samaritan was good to people who were hurt and defenseless, he paid for a night at the inn, he didn’t pay for six weeks. … I say this tongue in cheek, but he’s the good Samaritan, not the great Samaritan.”

Wilhite tells his congregation that there must be boundaries. Though he says one should help the poor and those in need, he also cautions: “Don’t pick up a hitchhiker.”

He knows he’ll teach his 6-year-old daughter the good Samaritan principles, but he’ll also teach her to be cautious.

Faced with the Paz situation, Wilhite said, “It’s hard to know unless you’re in that situation, but my first reaction might be to throw the door open and let them in.”

Yet he’s aware that could be dangerous. Wilhite knows a pastor in Kentucky who pulled over to help someone on the road.

“He ended up in the hospital,” Wilhite said.

Like me, Wilhite was impressed by the Paz solution. “They did not turn them away. They found a way to protect them and protect their family.”

Truly, Ruben and Maggie Paz hit the right balance between being good parents and good Samaritans.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0275.

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