Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

Recently, I was reminded of an experience I had some years ago while traveling. I was driving to a friend's lake house during the mass Houston exodus for Hurricane Rita. I arrived several hours ahead of my friends, so I decided to run a few errands, the first of which was to get gas.

As I stopped at the station, I could see I was not the only traveler fleeing the big city in search of safe refuge. Cars filled to the brim with people, children, pets and things were steadily trickling by on this usually uneventful country road. I was there alone with just about everything of worth to me - my dog, my photos and other important treasures and documents I didn't want to chance losing. I was not afraid though. I knew where I was and had safe havens nearby where I could wait until my friends finally arrived.

While I wasn't looking, a stranger approached me. She had a kind face full of concern as she came up to the pump where I had stopped. Apparently she saw me before I saw her and noticed I was not just on a weekend trip to someplace. She walked up and asked if I was fleeing the storm, to which I replied I was. Then as though we had met before, she asked if I had someplace to go.

My urban awareness all too quickly kicked in and I responded that I did, but thanked her very profusely for asking. She peered at me for a bit as if to say, "Are you telling me the truth? I mean you no harm," and then mentioned that she and her family lived nearby and would be happy to put me up if I needed it. I eased a bit and thanked her once more as I told her of my friends and their dilemma - being stuck in mile long traffic, taking a detour stop off at their ranch and yada, yada, yada...

Finally satisfied that I would be okay, she moved on but not before compassionately wishing me luck and a very safe journey. I was glad I had chosen that gas station to fill up at that day.

That encounter did something in me. In the midst of this stressfully uncertain situation, God sent a stranger to show me two things. The first was my suspicion to the kindness of others. I had nothing this woman needed but she had something to offer me. My initial response to that offer was one of distrust. Had I continued in that place and kept up my guard, I would've missed out on the second lesson.

In the midst of our day to day lives we experience all sorts of trials, triumphs, joys and sorrows. Yet we are continually surrounded by people who simply have nowhere to go. They have no one to turn to that they can share their trials or sorrows with, not to mention their joys. Sadly, we miss seeing those people, even those divinely placed in our own spheres of influence who desperately need for someone to notice their need. We miss them because we are too consumed with our own lives to see that they even have a need.

I want to be like that woman. It was her kindness - the kindness of a stranger that softened me that day. Lord, help me to see beyond me.