The Kindness of Strangers

March 21, 2016

My parents came over to our place this weekend. We were expecting them around 9pm, after their cooking class. But they texted to say they would be late because they were grabbing a drink with “their new friends they met at the class”. They finally made it to our house around 10:30pm…and they went on and on about Frank and Betty (or whatever their names were…I missed that part). And then they went on all weekend, joking that after we move, they will just stay with Frank and Betty when they come to Columbus. They connected. Over poached eggs, olive tapenade, and a bottle of wine that Frank and Betty offered to share with them. The kindness of strangers. 

The next night, we all stayed up late telling stories. And Dad recalled one in which I went on a little adventure with one of my best high school friends. There might have been a little back story about a boy and the Internet and meeting at the top of the Sears Tower…work with me…this is a 1990s Midwestern high school girl’s dream…a personal Sleepless in Seattle. After a significant amount of pleading, Mom and Dad agreed to let us go to Chicago for one night. We got up at 5am and took off on our adventure. Mom had found us a hotel with a AAA discount, right on the Chicago River. Our room was on the 17th floor, and naive as we were, we walked into the room, dashed over to the window to throw open the drapes, sure we would find sweeping, picturesque views of Lake Michigan. Alas, we were faced with a brick wall so close that if we opened the window, we would have touched it; we looked down and found an alley, with several dumpsters…and a dump truck, the first of many we would hear all night long. Sigh… But our adventures were only beginning. Pizza at Unos. Dinner at Ed Debevics. A walk along the lake. (Window) shopping along Michigan Ave. The Sears Tower observation deck. (Don’t worry, the boy never showed up.) Finally, at the end of the night, we decided we wanted Ghirardelli’s ice cream. Although I’d been there before, years earlier, I couldn’t remember where it was exactly. We wandered aimlessly up and down the street. Apparently we looked lost. And then a man, probably in his mid 40s, stopped to talk to us. “Excuse me, girls. Where are your parents? Are you lost.” We explained the adventure, experiencing all we could as fast as we could, And we said we just wanted some ice cream but couldn’t find it. “Look, I have a daughter your age. C’mon. Ghirardelli’s is just around the corner. Let’s go get some ice cream.” That man, a father, took us under his arm for the next hour. He saw us completely free spirited, loving life, adventurous. He bought us giant ice cream sundaes and gently, but fatherly, told us it was getting late and to get on back to our hotel. The kindness of strangers. 

Many years later, we moved to Chicago for my residency. And when I found out I’d be going to Memphis for just one year for my fellowship, we made the tough decision that Scott would stay in Chicago with the kids while I went on for my training. I’d come home as often as possible. In the midst of the recession, we’d lose more than we could tolerate on the sale of the house, only to move again just 12 months later. Preparing to leave behind four kids, the youngest of which was only 9 months old, I needed a new phone, a more reliable phone. So I found myself in the Verizon store one Sunday afternoon. I stepped up to pay, explaining to the salesman how I would be out of state, and wanted to be sure my coverage would be good in Memphis, but that Scott and the kids would remain here, “Look, it’s hard, ok? It’s for work….” and then tears filled my eyes. The woman who was behind me couldn’t help but overhear this conversation. And see my emotion. She spoke up. “You are a surgeon? You are leaving your children for the next year? Honey, God has a plan for you. Can I pray for you?!?” And that woman dropped everything. And she prayed for me. Out loud. Right there in line at the Verizon store. And then she proceeded to give me her business card. I tucked it in my purse. And several weeks later, when I was desperately missing my family, I called them…and then I called her. “I need you to pray for me again.” And so it was. Kim prayed me/us through that year. We have stayed in touch. Calls and texts and Facebook and visits when I return to Chicago. The kindness of strangers.

Matthew 25:38-40 (Amp) “And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained you, or naked and clothed you? And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit you? And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least  [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.” You know, there are times in our lives when each of us are the least of these. Whether “poor and naked” in spirit or time or energy; whether “imprisoned” in pain or depression or loneliness; whether a “stranger” in a new country or our own backyard. I don’t think Jesus meant that we should think of ourselves as better or separate from the sick and the lost and the poor and the imprisoned. I wonder if He meant that sometimes we are the strangers and the poor and the imprisoned. And we can offer a little glimpse of Him with our kindness…the kindness of strangers. 


Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.

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