Blog #20- Stranger Impact
A family of three boarded a hotel shuttle, bound for the airport and a flight to Africa. Six suitcases accompanied them. Another couple also boarded the shuttle and noticed with disapproval the lack of space left on the van. They commented that the four-minute ride to the airport “scarred them” because they were so cramped.
A few minutes later, while standing in line for boarding passes, a different couple noticed their luggage.
Wife: Look at how much baggage they have!
Husband: Maybe they are missionaries.
Wife: No. There’s no way. Missionaries aren’t selfish enough to take that many bags.
It is amazing what people will say in the presence of complete strangers.
And yes, those people are missionaries and have been for over ten years. They live with the tension that home is found on two different continents. Each time they board a plane they are fresh off a Target run that has to last them until they return. They receive boarding passes in exchange for the convenience of regular Wi-Fi, electricity and Chick-fil-A. And they go through security with hearts worn out from the sacrificial round of emotional goodbyes. Though serving in this role is their choice, departure days are still a challenge.
It doesn’t help to be told you are inconveniencing someone’s ride or living selfishly.
Jesus told us to love one another. But sometimes we forget that strangers are “one anothers” too. Somehow, we think it is ok to be impatient, selfish and rude as long as we don’t know someone’s name.
And bad behavior doesn’t always include words.
Once I was waiting in line at a bookstore. The man in front of me struck up a conversation with the store clerk. I was in a rush and wanted him to wrap it up. As he continued to banter with her for several minutes, impatience was rising up through my chest.
My mind was screaming,“Pay for your books and move on!”
Finally, he gathered his things and left. I placed my book on the counter and the clerk asked me point blank: “Have I done something to upset you?” I said no, confused by her question. She went on to say, “Well, the way you have been looking at me in line makes me think I have done something to offend you.”
Jesus gave us one command. Love one another. It is a simple statement, but pretty high on the difficulty scale. Why? Because no one is exempt. Not even strangers. And loving one another can involve words, but it may not. It is a total verbal and non-verbal behavior check.
So how do you act around strangers? When was the last time you paid a stranger a compliment? Or did a random act of kindness? Conversely, how often do you grumble, shoot a dirty look or sigh loudly to make your irritation known?
Strangers make an impact on us every day. But what kind of impact are you making on them?
Take a moment to consider how different our world would be if we led with love when it came to those we don’t know. Could kindness avert a future argument, prevent a bad decision or deter some road rage? Could it inspire, redirect or bring healing to someone in need? The thing is we’ll probably never know.
But what if we acted like we did?
What if we intentionally chose to love strangers well? Fully expecting our actions to make a difference. How would that affect our own disposition? Would we discover more patience, more purpose or more joy if we saw each interaction as an opportunity to make a positive difference?
Every stranger has hidden baggage. And our quick assessments of them are probably wrong most of the time. Remember that missionary family? One of their six suitcases was filled with gifts for people in Africa.
Love one another.
Make an impact.
Love a stranger today with a smile or a gracious act. (Want to be really intentional? Read Love Does by Bob Goff.)
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