At the service station, without any noise to guide them, the mechanics didn’t know what could have happened. “If it happens again,” they said, “just run alongside the car and take a picture.”
The next day, driving to take someone to a doctor appointment, that terrible noise began again! This time, no matter how often I stopped and started, the noise didn’t abate. There on the side of Route 100 was a West Dover maintenance truck, so I pulled over and asked for help. Yes ma’am, said one of the men, you have a plastic bag wrapped around your drive shaft. He got under there (after asking me to turn the car off!) and got rid of that plastic bag for me. Since then, no more weird, frightening noises.
Twice in two days I was helped, encouraged, and taken seriously by people to whom I was a stranger – and I thank them with all my heart.
Scripture tells us not to hesitate to welcome strangers, because at some point we may be welcoming “angels unaware.” Now, please, I’m not saying I’m an angel – far from it if you must know – but those people who helped me might find themselves in the presence of angels the next time they offer their help. And as for being willing to help someone they don’t know, they were a miraculous presence for me.
We are in a culture where more and more often we must be very careful; careful of whom we stop to help, careful of picking up hitchhikers, careful of whoever knocks on our door, and we know that it’s the better part of wisdom to be so careful. We must be alert to our surroundings; we must, especially if we’re women, not walk out alone after dark. And yet, kindness persists. There is something built into many people that makes them care about someone else.
In a free translation, Scripture says: “If you suddenly have uninvited guests, and you have nothing to feed them,” says one story, “go to your neighbor, and if you persist in needing help, your neighbor will help you. If your child asks for an egg, will you give that child a spider? If you, being human, know how to care for each other and for your children, how much more will your heavenly father care for you?”
Somehow, it is built into many of us to really want to help our neighbor, our friend, our children –but strangers? Yes, them, too, no matter how dangerous our culture has become. It’s part of the breath of God that is said to have been blown into us at creation. It’s a movement of our hearts that calls us to do what is right and good and useful and helpful.
As long as there is the kindness of strangers somewhere in our world, there is hope for a future for us and for our children.
I invite you to attend a place of worship this week – and if you’re a stranger, expect to be welcomed. If you are in a place of worship and see a stranger at your door, welcome them. Who knows? They may be your opportunity to meet an angel unawares.
In any case, at a place where people gather for worship, you will hear the stories of kindness and grace, hope and a promise of a future that those who join in worship hear often for their encouragement.
Try it. It may be just what you need.
Rev. Dr. Marcia Dorey is pastor of the Halifax Union Society in Halifax Center.