When I was the Stranger to Avoid

Why should she be suspicious of me? Can’t she tell by looking that I’m a good person and only want to help? And who pinned a BEWARE OF THE STRANGER sign on my shirt?

How quickly I forgot that earning trust is work.

As I searched for mushrooms in a crowded produce department last year, I maneuvered my cart around a young mother and her brood. A little girl hung on to the outside of the cart, asking for strawberries, and a wide-eyed infant squirmed in his sling. The woman had to be overwhelmed.

A minute later I heard their cart hit the cement floor, scattering their groceries. Mom calmed her terrified daughter and reached to get their belongings out of the way of other shoppers.

How well I remember shopping with multiple children in tow, taking care to keep them safe from sharp objects and questionable people.

Parking my cart out of the shopping lane, I picked up some bags of produce and cans and set them back in her cart. When I found a cell phone, I handed it to Mom thinking she’d be grateful I’d rescued it. Instead, she scrutinized me as though I might grab it and run.

I’m sure to her I looked like a meddling nuisance, a stranger who shouldn’t be trusted. I’d thought the same things of people who seemed overly friendly to my children.

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18 ESV).

Now I knew that she didn’t need me for a best friend at that moment. Instead, the best way to love my neighbor that day was to back off. Spotting a loose dime on the floor, I bent down to pick it up, knowing I was still being watched. I handed it to the little girl. “Here, why don’t you hold this for your mommy?”

And I slipped quietly away.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

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