I’ve been reflecting lately on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. As a reminder, it’s the story of a traveler who is beaten and robbed, left for dead by the side of the road. Two men pass, moving to the other side of the road without helping. But soon, a Samaritan comes along and takes pity on the man. He bandages his wounds and takes him to an inn for care.
The story has come to mind again and again as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. But even more so over the past month as St. Jude has helped coordinate the evacuation of children with cancer and their families from Ukraine, welcoming some to St. Jude to continue cancer treatment in safety.
In the founding documents of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, Danny Thomas dedicated our beautiful, unifying mission to this parable because it resonates through many faiths and cultures as it promises to “love and care for our neighbor regardless of color or creed.”
As we’ve remembered and honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week on the anniversary of his death, his account of the story comes to mind as well. In Dr. King’s retelling, the two men ask, “If I stop and help this man, what will happen to me?” But the Samaritan reverses the question: “If I do not stop and help this man, what will happen to him?”
I like that way of thinking about it. We are all called to love and care for one another regardless of color, creed, ethnicity or economic or social status.
In the 1960s, those in need were children diagnosed with cancer. Ninety-six out of 100 kids with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, died of their disease before St. Jude was founded. And St. Jude chose to tackle this disease upon opening 60 years ago. Today, the survival rate for ALL at St. Jude is 94 percent.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan goes on to ask: Who is my neighbor?
Who is my neighbor? Such an important question. Is it the person next door or down the block? Across the city? In the next state over or across the country?
In the 1960s, would it have been a child of color?
Today, is it a child from Mexico or Guatemala? Syria or Ukraine?
The single biggest predictor of whether a child will survive their cancer is where that child lives. Think about that — there will be 400,000 new cases of childhood cancer this year. How many of those kids are our neighbors?
At St. Jude, the answer is part of our foundation — every single one of them.
It’s why we have a goal of raising global survival rates for six of the most common types of childhood cancer from less than 20 percent to 60 percent by 2030.
And why a $200 million St. Jude initiative will provide quality cancer medications to countries in need for free. That plan alone will impact 50 countries and more than 120,000 kids by 2027, all possible because of the support of the public.
Because all children with cancer everywhere are our neighbors, we’ve worked closely with partner institutions around the world to help coordinate the SAFER Ukraine humanitarian effort and move them to waiting oncology clinics throughout Europe, Canada and here in the U.S. at St. Jude.
This is why your help is so crucial. These children who only want hope and a chance at survival are why we cannot pass to the other side of the road. In today’s global landscape we must ask — we have the responsibility to ask — if we do not help the sickest kids in the world, what will become of them?