A man once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In reply, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Anyone who shows mercy to another is a neighbor.
Throughout my father’s lifetime, he lived in Slovakia, France, Brazil, and America. Yet, as he grew older, for a number of years, this globe-trotter was afraid to board an airplane. It was during this period that my mother arrived alone at Cleveland Hopkins Airport for our annual Christmas visit in Ohio. Dad stayed home in Florida.
On New Year’s morning, my mother called to check in on my father and wish him a Happy New Year. He told her this story:
Yesterday afternoon (New Year’s Eve), while waiting for the bus home, I started talking to this guy at the bus stop. He had fallen on hard times and was homeless. Since I was alone, I invited him to come home and eat dinner with me. We rode the bus home together. Then, I cooked my whatever’s-in-the-fridge goulash for supper. After we ate, we watched TV. As usual, I fell asleep on the couch (remote in hand). When I woke up this morning, the man was gone.
“You could have been murdered! We could have been robbed!” Mom scolded, horrified at what my father had done. But, the stranger left without taking anything—not food, not a thing from the house, not even Dad’s wallet.
As a young man, after World War II, my father wandered Europe as a homeless refugee. He slept under the stars on cold nights. He knew what it felt like to be hungry and broke. He spent many holidays alone, far from home and family. To my dad, it was perfectly natural to offer food and shelter to a fellow human in need on New Year’s Eve.
I can’t help but wonder. Was the stranger an angel in disguise?
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
(Hebrews 13:1–2 NLT)
If the stranger had been an angel, Dad passed the test. Would I pass? Yes, we must be careful. Many warm-hearted, naive people have been harmed or even murdered helping strangers. However, in my cautiousness, has my heart grown hard towards the downtrodden? Have my ears grown deaf to the Spirit’s whisper, “You can help that person”?
Have I missed an opportunity to entertain an angel?
In this often cynical world, keep my heart soft and compassionate like my dad’s.
Give me wisdom to know when and how to help those in need.
May I see your face in the face of a stranger. Amen.