When we were children our parents taught us to avoid and even flee from strangers, a very basic lesson every child needs to learn. That learning stays with us forever. When we are grown we learn to remain watchful of where we are and to be conscious of the activities around in order to remain safe.
But what if for just one day we chose to seek out a stranger? What if one day we said, “Today, I’ll engage others I meet with a conversation of kindness, even if they are strangers.”
What would that day look like?
Forever Fed intentionally invites strangers to our events. We actively seek strangers. We pass out flyers and we put up posters in store windows but the most important invitation we present is the one that happens face to face.
There’s been a new face in Canton recently, it’s the face of a homeless man I’ll call Joey. I’ve invited Joey numerous times to the Forever Fed events. He came to the Thanksgiving meal in Canton and last Saturday he actually climbed a good sized hill to come and receive a hot meal at our Block Party. When I first saw Joey and saw that he was breathing heavily from his climb I walked quickly to him and we walked arm in arm together to the serving line. I was overjoyed that he chose to come because this was a huge step for him, a step towards participating in society again. We had a very colorful conversation that still makes me smile and then he took a meal and went back home to his tent on the river. It was 20 degrees that night. I know many prayed he’d stay warm and safe.
We encountered Joey again a few days later at the Monday outreach. Joey was given some badly needed groceries and we chatted about everyday things. I pointed out our Church right down the street from where we were and encouraged him to go there for a cup of coffee and a warm place to sit for a while but he wasn’t very receptive to that idea, you could almost see the fear in his eyes. Before Joey left I asked him if I could give him a hug and he just laughed and said yes. I wondered how long it had been since he laughed.
Yesterday Joey showed up at the Church and from what I hear he was greeted very warmly and with great respect. He got his coffee and some more conversation with the Church staff. I praise God I belong to a Church family that welcomes the homeless. Many Churches will say they have “open doors” but few can really pull that off and do it well. Thank you Lord!
Do you see the trend for this man? Repeated invitations+ hospitality + more invitations + smiles and laughter + food + a warm place + conversations over coffee = restoration.
So what Forever Fed’s greatest hope for Joey? It’s no different than our greatest hope for everyone we serve. Our greatest hope is that the people we serve will come to know how greatly they are loved by the God that created them. God loves His children so very much not only did He send His only Son to redeem us, He’s sending a crazy group of individuals out in crazy weather to serve hot meals when and where they are badly needed. It’s a crazy idea…it wasn’t our idea, it was His.
So, what if for just one day, you chose to seek out a stranger? What if one day you said, “Today, I’ll engage others I meet with a conversation of kindness, even if they are strangers.”
What if you joined us one day and helped us invite strangers to a meal.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
Kindness to strangers…it’s His idea, for you.