Sometimes strangers aren't strangers, but are people we know very well.
They might be someone you haven't seen in a while or someone you have seen too much of and really don't care to be around them. But when a friend needs a friend (and you just so happen to be that friend) then be the friend. Meaning: don't put yourself first.
The art of greeting strangers with kindness is an art form for sure. It requires practice. Daily practice to make it a habit that sticks. The best place to get the practice you need is often right in front of your face. Showing compassion and kindness and patience with someone close to you, even if it's a friend who wants to suck everything you have out of you, doesn't listen to a word of advice they are asking for from you, or who have simply worn out their welcome with their selfish all-about-me drama, take the time to be with them. Treat them like you would treat someone you want to spend eternity with. This kind of practice makes greeting someone you don't know a little more easy and enjoyable.
A friend needs to talk, but you need to work. What do you do? Are you willing to stop and go for a hike or a walk around the block? Are you willing to stop what you are doing to have a cup of coffee and a good cry? Is your work more important than their emotional well-being? I don't know. There's one way to find out though. Practice kindness and see if the answer comes to you.
NOTE: By writing this I am forced to live up to it. So if any of you need me, I'll do my best to give you my full attention. That is, if you can find me.
Long ago, when I lived in Washington, DC, there was a man named Mitch. I wish I could remember his last name, but like I said, it was a long time ago. Mitch was a rebel. He was a very passionate rebel. He loved to fight the good fight against the injustice of poverty that had aggressively grown throughout the city and across the country.
He was what one would call a "bleeding heart liberal" and for good reason. He was one. Politics aside, Mitch used to go on hunger strikes to bring attention to this inhumane problem. Okay, I guess that is a political move. But really, politics aside, I once saw him being interviewed on the street near our nations capitol. I wasn't really paying too much attention to him, just watching his small media circus that had formed to capture what might be his last interview before starving to death. But then he said something really amazing that has stuck with me for nearly 25 years.
He said, "We live in a city where extreme wealth and extreme poverty live side-by-side. If every family who could afford to make one extra lunch, even if it's just a sandwich, actually did it and gave it to someone hungry we could eliminate hunger over night." Or something like that.
The point is, there are more people who can afford to eat than there are those who can't. Recession be damned! We won't be able to create new jobs, but we would be able to feed those who simply can't afford to feed themselves.
At our church, the children packed brown bag lunches (one can of ravioli, cereal bar, a fruit cup, a bottle of water and a fork and napkin) for the congregation to take and pass out to those less fortunate. Not only did this provide an invaluable lesson to the children, but it allowed the church to make a point to it's people by sending them out into the world to feed the hungry.
If memory serves me well, which I question, I believe Mitch died of complications due to his numerous hunger strikes. In his wake, many more Americans have died simply because they were hungry.
Maybe today or tomorrow or sometime in the near future, when you are packing your or your children's lunch, make an extra sandwich and give it to someone who might not have a meal to eat today. The good news is, if we all do it hunger will no longer be an issue the politicians will ignore.
Imagine the power you possess, the positive affect you can have on the world, just by being kind. Who knows, the kindness you show to strangers might actually save your life one day. Call it karma, call it paying it forward, call it being a Good Samaritan. It's all good.
What is the worse thing that could happen if we treated all people with solicitude and humanity? I don't know, but I consider this the beginning of my journey to find out.
I feel blessed to have met the man who started this wonderful organization. I hope to write more about Donn Ed and his wonderful outreach to help the poor and needy get a place they can call home.
by the way, this is their tagline..."God's work is everyones business."
I was working in the garden at front of my church. A man in his car sneezed. It was no ordinary sneeze either. It was the great sneeze that was heard around the world. Perhaps it rattled your walls or blew the leaves off your trees.
In all good fun I said, "God bless you." After looking around at that great voice coming from the bushes of the church and not seeing anyone, the poor guy looked perplexed. I stood up and waved to him. He smiled and said thanks. Before the light turned green and he would disappear into the L.A. traffic, he felt compelled to tell me about his allergies, the cause for his loud sneeze. "Okay," I said and then added, "But God has blessed you, you know that don't you?"
A smile came over his face, he said thanks and drove off. I by no means would consider myself an evangelical, making converts for the Lord kind of guy. But for once in my life, it seemed as easy as sneezing out load, and equally as surprising.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”