On the Stagecoach of Life, What Kind of Ticket Are You Holding?
In his book, World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers, William Bausch tells this little-known fact about riding in a stagecoach in the Old West. The stagecoach had three kinds of tickets: first class, second class, and third class. If you had a first class ticket, you could remain seated the entire trip, no matter what happened. If the coach got stuck in the mud, had trouble going up a steep hill, or even lost one of its wheels, you could remain seated inside the coach.
If you had a second class ticket, you could remain seated until there was a problem. In that case, you had to get out of the coach until the problem was fixed. Your didn’t have to help fix the problem. In fact you could stand around and watch as others worked on it. But if you had a third class ticket and something went wrong, you had to get out of the stagecoach and help fix the problem. In other words, the problem became part of your responsibility. This meant you had to help push the coach up the hill, or out of the mud, or even help repair a broken wheel.
We might ask ourselves, on the stagecoach of life, what kind of ticket am I holding? A first class ticket? That means if there’s a problem, I don’t have to do anything about it. A second class ticket? That means I can stand around and watch while others work on life’s problems. Or a third class ticket? That means when something goes wrong on the journey of life, I try to help. I sense it is partly my responsibility to do something about what’s wrong.
I believe that Jesus bought his disciples (and that includes us!) third class tickets for the stagecoach of life. He makes this very clear in his unforgettable parable called “The Good Samaritan” (Lk. 10:29-37). Most of you probably know the story by heart. A certain Jew was on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was mugged by robbers. They stole his money, beat him, stripped him, and left him half dead. A priest happened by, saw the man lying on the side of the road, and crossed to the other side and went on his way. Then a Levite also chanced by and he did the same thing. But when a third traveler happened by, he was “moved with compassion at the sight.” His compassion is all the more remarkable, because the man is a Samaritan, a traditional “enemy” of the Jews. The Samaritan stops, bends down, cleanses the man’s wounds, bandages them, lifts him on his own animal, and takes him to a nearby inn. He pays the owner generously to care for the man until he returns, saying, “If you spend more than what I have given you, I will repay you on my way back.”
Wow! Talk about holding a third class ticket! That Samaritan saw a big problem–which in a way was not his responsibility. He didn’t know the victim. He wasn’t a doctor. And the victim was not even a Samaritan, one of his own people! Yet he put aside his own plans to stop and care for him. And he extends his care into the future. And, at the end of the story, Jesus adds, “Go and do likewise.” He holds up this Samaritan as a model for discipleship. We, his followers, must have a sense of responsibility for our personal problems, yes, but also for those that lie beyond our own life, our family, our local community, our own country. It’s as simple and as challenging as that!
Today we might want to reflect on our sense of responsibility. Begin by giving yourself credit for all you are already doing. (I’m guessing you are already a pretty responsible person and a person of faith. Why else would you be reading a blog subtitled: “Celebrating Everyday Spirituality”?) Take a few moments to list (even in your mind) some of the ways you show you are responsible for things and people beyond yourself. Count things like: getting out of bed in the morning… caring for your kids or grandkids… putting in an honest day’s work… praying for the needs of others… taking care of things you use… paying taxes… contributing to your parish… doing a favor for a neighbor… feeding the birds… staying informed about important issues…
Then we can reflect on those times we shirk our responsibilities. Those times we come up with all kinds of excuses not to help out when we could. Remember, the priest and Levite probably had some very good reasons not to stop and help. But, then again, the Samaritan probably had some good reasons not to stop and help too—but he did! What made the difference?
The old maxim says, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” We could add, there’s no such thing as a free ride either! As we journey through life, being attentive to the needs of others—even when it is inconvenient—is part of “our ticket” for following Jesus! Amen!
Who taught you responsibility? How did they teach you?
The pandemic has challenged our sense of responsibility for one another. In what ways have we met that challenge? In what ways have we fallen short?
Has anyone ever gone out of their way to help you—especially a stranger? How did that experience make you feel?
PS #1: Thank you for your prayers for our first Provincial Chapter as one SND-USA province. It was good to meet (or re-meet) so many SND’s from our four areas: Chardon, OH; Covington, KY; Thousand Oaks, CA; and Toledo, OH. Our meetings went well. We prayed together, played together, had some worthwhile discussions, voted on proposals, and elected 8 delegates to our General Chapter in Rome in September. Thank you for your prayerful support!
PS #2: On February 13 we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Sunflower Seeds.” I can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog that long! I plan to celebrate with you by giving away some of my books (and a few other surprises) to a few lucky readers. Details will be coming soon. Stay tuned… Meanwhile, I thank YOU for following “Sunflower Seeds.” If I didn’t have readers like you, I would have stopped writing this blog a long time ago!!!
I looked for a song based on Matthew 25, Jesus’ parable of the Last Judgment. Although I used this song once before, I’m using it again here because it fits so well with today’s theme. I couldn’t find a version with the lyrics, but the chorus is: I was hungry… thirsty… lonely and afraid… I was crying and no one heard me, I was dying and no one came. Make sure you listen to the whole song because it ends on a positive note: “I was hungry, and you fed me… I was lonely, and you called my name… I was crying and you heard me… I was dying when you came.” Here is “The Matthew Song” by Broadway.
Please share your thoughts, reactions, and additions below. We all love hearing from each another!
Beautiful reflection as always Sister. I am pleased to be holding that third class ticket because it provides me the opportunity to be a better person and disciple. We are all the one suffering although we suffer from different things we can all use that friendly hand up or push. God bless!
Glad the meeting went well, would we know any of the Sisters going to Rome?
Good morning Sister! Thank you, as always, for your wonderful reflections. Another song you might consider for the Matthew text is a beautiful piece, written by Janet Sullivan Whitaker, called “The Least of These”.
Good morning Sr. Melannie,
You’ve done it again! The reflection and song were what I needed today. We consider ourselves so busy that we fail to see Jesus in the other person. Not just the ones we meet on the street, but especially in our own families. Thank you.
Your blog is So Uplifting and every Monday look forward to reading it,
Many Blessings for this New Year as you continue to lift so many up!
You give us hope and courage as we travel our journey by stagecoach, sister. So grateful for your weekly reflection
Happy new year!.
Thank you for this inspiring message I read first thing today. At 82, I hope to continue to buy the third-class ticket and continue to be active in being that Samaritan as long as I can.
Thank you once again for getting our attention and offering much to consider as we think of “class” and “privileg.”
Congratulations on 10 blogging years! Hope you. O pile an anthology and do celebrate.
I don’t always take the time to respond to your bogs but please know how very grateful I am to receive them every week for years now. Todays song was wonderful.
So very thank for for your weekly blogs dear Sr.Melannie. I’ve been caring for my Mom the last few months and know that God in His goodness knew the right time, which was yesterday, to walk her home with Him. Your blogs are very uplifting always. I hope I can hang on to my 3rd class ticket for a long time in order to help out where needed on our journey together, as that is our “soul” purpose, isn’t it?
Good morning to all,
I don’t know where to begin….the music and pictures have left my heart crying. I am a 3rd class traveler looking for those who are not even allowed on the stagecoach…….I see more people walking alongside than riding inside.
But, I want to share a story about when I was a very young mother, travelling the Ohio turnpike alone with my 2 little ones on a very rainy Saturday afternoon. My marriage was breaking down and I was in a state of fear and anxiety. Low and behold one of my tires blew out and there I was watching the traffic fly by, splashing water as it passed…..added to the water from the tears that were flowing from my eyes and my little ones’ eyes.
Having no idea how I was going to solve this problem, I saw a semi-truck go by, put on his brakes and back up. (Tears are coming to my eyes as I remember this). I got out and walked up to meet him, crying even harder which made him very uncomfortable……ultimately he was able to change the tire and insisted on no money for doing it. What a Godsend this good Samaratin was for me.
Thank you for your blog….I too, always look forward to it.
My new year’s resolution is to LOVE more broadly and deeply in 2022.
Good morning and a blessed 2022 to all!
Sister Melannie, I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve wished I could turn my third class ticket into a first class ticket. But I must admit that going third class is a lot more interesting!
Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
Good morning, all…
It’s July, 2016. My nephew and I were walking a portion of El Camino de Santiago. I say a “portion” because the whole pilgrimage is over 500 miles and takes about thirty-five days to complete. My nephew and I were walking for seven days. On the first day of our walk we covered twenty miles! Yes, a long, long trek! When we reached that day’s destination and checked in to our albergue ( a hostel), I swiftly discovered I had developed a large bubble blister on instep of my left foot.
This was not good. A blister, especially a big old bad one, can easily derail a person’s Camino. I didn’t know what to do. I was pretty glum. Just then a fellow pilgrim from South Korea came to my aid. First, she spoke very little English, second, she had been walking the whole Camino, not just a portion, and as a result, her feet were heavily bandaged, and third, she was an angel!
She took out a needle, threaded it, passed it through the bubble, and snipped it off so as to allow the thread to wick the moisture from both sides of the blister. She then applied an antiseptic salve to the now deflated bubble, and then applied a bandage that seemed to be made for that precise part of my foot. I was healed! She nodded her head and left. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and this woman healed my blister. She may have had a third class ticket but she treated me like a first class pilgrim!
Just want to add my thanks to all the others! I look forward to this weekly reminder to stay on the path. Responding to people’s needs is my aim and sometimes I actually can. This is a real challenge and being reminded in such an inspiring way is a gift.
Happy, healthy, peaceful New Year 2020!!
Thank you, Sr. Melanie. I realize as I reflect that I am the hurting Jew today and you are the Good Samaritan who has ministered to me through your honest, loving words. Your blog is and has been a light for me. God bless you in your work of writing.
I attended a retreat you gave several years ago in Birmingham, Alabama and have been looking forward to and reading/listening to your Monday blog every week since. You are so refreshing and joyful and I am always moved and inspired, as well as educated. I just wanted to say thank you so very much and may God bless you in 2022!
A good reminder and a different perspective as I prepare to go back to school tomorrow. I teach middle school special education and primarily work with 6th graders.
My dad has always told me that as a teacher I am planting seeds. I am so very grateful for the seeds you plant in my heart and mind each week.
Congratulations on ten years writing this blog. What a gift you are to so many; clearly carrying a third class ticket every day. Thank you
Thank you for my weekly wake-up call.
You really hit a nerve with this blog. We are the heads of a prison ministry group ministering to mostly families of incarcerated people. We also do the music for a nursing home communion service. However we do have trouble giving to all the folks standing on street corners. We liver in Florida and there are so many homeless people down here and so many scammer’s mixed in with them it’s very difficult to tell who’s needing help and whose not really. We have from time to time given socks to people in the homeless in the woods, but out on the street it’s a really tough decision. Pray for more discerning choices, please.
Thank you for this blog, today’s message in prose and song, and for reminding me about the writings of Father William Bausch
Thank you for today’s blog and especially for the song. I think I am definitely holding a third class ticket even though at times I wish it were a first class one. I think my husband said it all though in his above response.
Just as an aside. About 50 years ago we had a house fire just before Christmas. My husband’s union at GM offered to take each of our children Christmas shopping. We discovered that it is often harder to graciously receive than it is to give.
Thank you again for today’s blog -and for every Monday’s blog. Happy New Year!
Great reflections Melanie I know what my destination is as a third class take it it’s always been that way and I know that the Lord will always keep it that way for me. But thank you so much for your wonderful and beautiful reflections God bless you
Thought I lost you so great to read your great readings and you give me hope