Welcoming the Stranger

Waiting for whoever might come for our new Bible study at the Friends’ meetinghouse, I was surprised when a homeless white woman opened the door and asked if we were having a Bible study or prayer meeting. I said we were and, not knowing what else to say, invited her to join us.

She went to the bathroom. A man I was expecting arrived. She came back out and joined us. She pulled out her toothbrush and toothpaste and brushed a little, then sprayed toward her underarms with something that smelled good. No one else came, but we decided to go ahead with our study. She said she preferred the King James Bible, but we didn’t have one.

We launched into a conversation about Genesis 1. It soon was obvious that she didn’t need a copy of the Bible because she knew vast portions of it by heart. She entered right into our conversation with helpful comments. Her clear blue eyes were twinkling, she was smiling, and her face glowed with light. I listened intently, trying to take in the good she was offering us, yet also warily, not knowing what to make of this homeless stranger. The Benedictines teach that we should greet everyone as Christ. “Who is she,” I wondered, “and what I am to learn?” It was, for me, an extraordinary experience.

Before telling a group of friends about this, I asked them to tell stories about encountering a stranger or visiting with a friend. All the stories were about unexpected gifts that had come from taking the time to be present with another person. So often, maybe wisely, we set up barriers to keep us in control or to avoid being vulnerable. But what might we be missing?

Queries:

What story about encountering a stranger or visiting with a friend can you tell?

When is it valuable to be vulnerable and when is it inappropriate? Do you need more safety or more willingness to be vulnerable?

Prayer:

God of steadfast love and mercy, bless us with understanding hearts and peaceful spirits.

For further reflection:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. . . . And who is my neighbor?” (See Luke 10:25-37).

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13: 2)

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3 thoughts on “Welcoming the Stranger

  1. Thanks, Patty. Yes, several times someone has spoken to my condition out of the blue. I was on the subway in Philadelphia and scared about getting lost finding an address. I mentioned that to the woman sitting across from me and she said something like, “Well, sometimes it’s important to get lost to find what you need.” I felt a great weight lift off me.

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  2. What a wonderful story! Not long ago I was standing in front of the motel where we had stayed the night, waiting for the car to pull up. I noticed a woman sitting on a bench nearby, smoking a cigarette and looking down as if she might be feeling unhappy. I decided to pray for her (silently of course).. When the car pulled up and I started toward it with my luggage, she raised her head, looked straight at me, and smiled. Did she sense my prayers for her? I’ll never know, but I felt as if she had returned the prayer–we had prayed for each other.

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  3. Your blog this week touched me deeply. My work in the world for so many years dealt with homeless families, who were all strangers to me when I first met them. In working with them and praying for them I came to know them as wounded, like myself, but with the courage to shoulder on, often with small children. The Hebrews passage stayed with me during my work life and these many years since retirement. Just wondering as well, have you had any contact with this woman since she came to your Bible study?

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