A Comparison of Two Encounters

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“Why do you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
[(she asked) because Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans]

—cf. NzT: St John 4.9

“No doubt you’ve seen your share of children go shy on you—
well, here’s an adult who’s not much bolder.”

—myself, early March CE2017, to a mascot event host

The Woman at Jacob’s Well:

A Jewish rabbi of the Common Era (whose name might unduly prejudice some readers if I give it) decided to leave Judaism’s hub city until the controversy surrounding his somewhat maverick ways cooled down a bit.  On the way to their destination was Samaria, a territory in which most Jews of the day wouldn’t have been caught dead!  Deferring to his entourage, the rabbi allowed them to go ahead of him around the stigmatised territory while he entered it alone (I told you he was a bit of a maverick).

Around noon, the weary rabbi arrived at Jacob’s Well in Sychar, where one of the local women came to draw water for her household.  She apparently hadn’t dared to come during the cooler part of the day with the other women if it meant enduring their gossip over her somewhat chequered repute.  As she drew, she heard a strange male voice asking her for a drink.

In the culture of that day, men and women rarely spoke to each other unless they shared a pretty strong tie (like a family relationship).  Besides, she had come to be wary of the voice’s accent, remembering how holier-than-thou most Jews could be with her people.  Yet somehow this encounter was different—no preachiness, no condescension, no snobbery...just a polite, unassuming request for some H2O.

In time, the request led to some light conversation, which led to a major aha! moment, which caused the woman to run back to her townsfolk to tell of the rabbi who had read her like a book but still found value in her, warts and all.

The Mascot at the Children’s Event:

Fast forward by a couple of millenia (give or take) to a shopping mall’s morning children’s programme in March CE2017 (not too far from Ash Wednesday, as I recall).  While many of the Good Rabbi’s more current fanbase may have given up indulgences like meat, sugar or electronic distractions for Lenten austerity, I decided a better tribute would be to give up my victim mentality and let a negative emotional trigger have a chance to be the innocent for a change.

Because the event mascot, like Chip + Dale, represented a sciurid rodent who’d probably insist he was no more a “squirrel” than I am an orang-hutan (that is, if character mutism hadn’t stood in the way), I felt perhaps he would serve well enough as a proxy.  After having taken in a number of programme episodes in the distance to buttress myself, I had finally braved up enough to sit closer to the stage.  Perhaps I was being unduly theatric for the occasion, but when a little girl retreated from the mascot, I decided to commiserate with him, offering the above confession.  At about the same time, I explained my actions to the mascot’s co-host, a local children’s educator and music therapist.

In the spirit of the Good Rabbi, I approached the mascot, not to charge him with leading his audience astray with “lies” or make him scapegoat for the mischief of other sciurid characters, but to present my case honestly and regardless of how he might respond—and in no less the spirit of the Good Rabbi, he received my confession without judgement or censure, but with more compassion than I could have ever expected.  I feel that both the event hosts went the second mile (plus a few extra steps to make sure no maverick chipmonks would pop out of the woodwork) in my case.