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Everyday Heroes - the History of Good Samaritans

June 5th, 2012 Inspirational

For as long as humans have been around, they have faced challenges and strife. While people have a penchant for personal triumph over their problems through self-will and an individual determination, sometimes situations can be so dire that people need the assistance and kindness from others. Through labels and awards we recognize those who put others first and commit heroic acts that either save lives or alleviate detrimental circumstances.

The history of the good samaritan
The term "good samaritan" is one of the current labels that we give to people who show great character with selfless acts that benefit others. Although you will find this term used in contemporary society, its roots date back to Biblical times. The book of Luke tells of a man who found himself gravely hurt when he tried to make his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Many people passed him by on the road, ignoring his troubled condition, but a "Samaritan" had pity on the man and showed great compassion.

Modern Usage
Good samaritan did not become a commonly used phrase or take on the connotation we know today until the seventeenth century, when in 1649, Peter Chamberlen published a book titled "The Poore Mans Advocate, or Englands Samaritan."

In the twenty-first century, the moniker Samaritan is still heavily used with the implied meaning of helping others out. There are a series of hospitals and healthcare centers that bear the namesake, such as the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Massachusetts, or the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California. There is even a counseling service for those in need by an organization called The Samaritans.

There is also the Good Samaritan Society, which assists nearly 27,000 elderly people a year across the country. They offer services that range from hospices to inpatient therapy as well as assisted living.

The Good Samaritan Award is a renowned honor that is given by the United Methodist Church. The award goes to a youth who demonstrates strong humanitarian character. The award itself is a silver pendant with a purple ribbon that shows the scene from the Bible in which the Samaritan is nursing the troubled stranger on the side of the road back to health. Any child can be nominated for the Good Samaritan Award through an application process.

Same compassion, different name
Just because someone shows the traits of a good samaritan does not mean that they go by that label. Different societies and cultures show various ways to recognize people who demonstrate the characteristics of a samaritan, even though they might not use that term. An example of this, which is very similar to the United Methodist's recognition, is the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), which gives out bravery awards to children who demonstrate outstanding acts of courage and lend a helping hand to those in need. The awards are given out on Children's Day, on November 14th. There are different levels of awards that go by various names such as Bapu Gaidhani, Geeta Chopra and Bharat. The ICCW also issues prize money to the recipients that ranges from 24,000 rupees to 50,000 rupees.

According to the Indo Asian News Service, this year, one of the recipients was 11-year-old Om Prakash Sharma, who saved eight of his friends' lives when a school van caught on fire.

The United States military also has its own methods of recognizing acts of valor and bravery that take place during battle. Examples include the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. There are also certain medals for different conflicts and wars, from the Civil War Campaign Medal to the Philippine Campaign Medal.