There are many lonely people. Strangers in a strange land, but we can welcome them and perhaps discover an angel in disguise.
I was visiting a home the other day, and an older lady met me. I had never met her before, and she told me that she was visiting her daughter and son-in-law, who lived there.
We chatted briefly about the garden work I needed to do then she offered me a coffee. I said that would be great after I finished the job.
I duly finished the job, and she brought me a refreshing cup of coffee.
Then we had a chat. Nothing more than light conversation, but then she shared about a recent tragedy in the family.
She opened up her heart and soul, and the words flowed.
It was a sacred moment, and I felt that I was on holy ground. We were in church together.
A stranger had entered my world, and I felt the pull to listen.
I wondered later that if she had put her own needs to the side in her caring for her family. That there had been no one for her to be soulful with, and then I happened to come along with a few gentle questions.
Recently I heard of a young man that I know and how the pressure of life and relationships had become just too much.
He was going to take his own life. A stranger saw him and felt concerned. She talked him down and got him help.
He’s doing well now and has some good support.
Strangers and Angels
There is a strange little passage in the bible about strangers and Angels.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
I don’t think I have ever met an angel. Certainly, not one portrayed in art – half-naked, wings, harps, and with that surreal faraway glow.
But I do wonder sometimes about angelic interventions. Could that have been an angel that intervened in that young man’s life? I don’t know.
As I listened to the grieving mother’s heart, was there a third person in the midst of it all. Were their angels in attendance?
Orphans, widows, and strangers
Throughout the Bible, we find the call to be hospitable to those on the outside.
Ron Rolheiser writes why this was important.
First, because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners and immigrants. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that.
Second, they believed that God’s revelation, most often, comes to us through the stranger, in what’s foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith.
The great prophets developed this much further. They taught that God favors the poor preferentially and that consequently we will be judged, judged religiously, by how we treat the poor.
The prophets coined this mantra (still worth memorizing):
The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land; and the quality of justice in the land will always be judged by how orphans, widows, and strangers fare while you are alive. Ron Rolheiser
The Crisis of Loneliness
I have made it a rule that whenever I am working on a garden, and I happen to be near the sidewalk, I always welcome the stranger. I always say hello to someone who is walking past.
They may be walking to work, out for a stroll, earbuds in, or have a dog on a leash.
They generally pass a welcome back to me.
One day I did this, and the lady with the dog stopped. We got chatting about the garden I was working on, and she invited me to come to her home and work in her garden.
She lived alone and needed some help. There were good conversations included too.
The world, I believe, is becoming increasingly isolated. COVID 19 hasn’t helped either with social isolation rules and fears of contagion.
Are you living on the street?
How much do you put yourself in the place where strangers walk?
I know that this would create high levels of anxiety and fear for some of you, but for many of you, I would like you to step outside of your comfort zone and place yourself in the way of the stranger.
I sometimes get emails from my readers. They share something of themselves. Perhaps it’s a matter of prayer or concern that they want to talk about.
I’m working on the street where everyone passes by. Each week I say hi to around 550 email subscribers, and some say hi back.
Some invite me, and we’re no longer strangers. Some are no longer stray dogs looking for a place to rest.
Treating them like an Angel
I wonder what would happen in this lonely world if we treated every stranger like they were an angel—a heavenly messenger sent by God for some divine purpose.
Finding little ways to be hospitable and show kindness.
Perhaps with some openness to the stranger, we will receive a fresh message or a revealing of who and what God is like. I know that is what happened for one such couple a few years ago.
Let’s build a community where we welcome strangers, orphans, and widows into our hearts.
Quotes to consider
- In welcoming the stranger, in showing real hospitality to those who seem foreign to us, whom we do not understand, we are given the opportunity hear new promise, to hear a fuller revelation of God. Ron Rolheiser
- The role of the stranger in our lives is vital in the context of Christian faith, for the God of faith is one who continually speaks truth afresh, who continually makes all things new.
God persistently challenges conventional truth and regularly upsets the world’s way of looking at things. It is no accident that this God is so often represented by the stranger, for the truth that God speaks in our lives is very strange indeed.
Where the world sees impossibility, God sees potential.
Where the world sees comfort, God sees idolatry.
Where the world sees insecurity, God sees occasions for faith.
Where the world sees death, God proclaims life.
God uses the stranger to shake us from our conventional points of view, to remove the scales of worldly assumptions from our eyes.
God is a stranger to us, and it is at the risk of missing God’s truth that we domesticate God, reduce God to the role of familiar friend. Parker Palmer – The Company of Strangers
Questions to answer
- What opportunities do you have to welcome the stranger?
- How is modern life constructed to keep the stranger away?
- Who has welcomed you?
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator with a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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