“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” (Blanche DeBois, A Streetcar Named Desire)
I was quietly praying the Rosary and holding a “Pray to Stop Abortion” sign outside Planned Parenthood when a delivery truck pulled to the curb. The driver jumped out and headed toward me, holding a bottle of water and a banana. He handed them to me and said quietly, “It’s a hot day. Please take these. I’m so glad you are here.” I barely had time to thank him before he turned around, climbed back into his truck and drove away.
I told this story to my friend Robyn over lunch, along with several other anecdotes of strangers who randomly helped me and my family over the years. A few weeks later, Robyn related that our conversation had given her inspiration to “be the stranger” as she actively looked for ways to help others. This is exactly what Christ tells us to do:
“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me… As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matt 25:35,40)
Interestingly, the stranger can be both the person helping and the person being helped. As Jesus (and Robyn) pointed out, we store up heavenly treasures by treating strangers with kindness and looking out for opportunities to help others in need.
Likewise, we represent Jesus as the stranger when we are in need and accept help from others. After all, even our Savior allowed Simon of Cyrene to help Him carry His cross.
Yet too often, I make snap judgments of strangers, projecting negative qualities upon them based on appearances. As this is a fault I need to overcome, I pray daily for heavenly aid to see the presence of Jesus in everyone I meet. Sometimes God gives me rather interesting situations to practice this virtue.
I was at the grocery store, in a hurry to finish my errands. My final stop was the deli counter, but to my chagrin, a sloppily dressed (and not recently showered) family was ordering several different items. After a few minutes, they walked away leaving the youngest boy at the counter. He was about 13, with stained and crooked teeth, a piercing through his lip and spiked hair. I was already making judgments… When the deli employee asked for his next item, he smiled and told her to help me instead. Stunned and humbled, I thanked him and placed my order. We chatted for a few minutes about how delicious the roast beef we had both ordered tasted with melted cheddar. I showed him the ciabattta rolls in my cart that make the best sandwiches, and he asked where I had found them. For a few minutes, we were no longer strangers, but two people who were radiating the presence of Christ.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:2)
Just remember that angels can have piercings and bad teeth.
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