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

Welcome the Stranger – Leviticus 19:34

We didn’t know anyone in our new community when we moved into our country home. Both my husband and I had lived in Eugene since elementary school, not realizing how deep our roots had grown—or how important they were.

We’d stayed in the same school district for decades, taking part in athletic competitions, after school clubs, community events, and church activities with our neighbors and peers, so it was astonishing when we found ourselves viewed with suspicion by so many.

We were overlooked

I approached the line in front of the neighborhood church with my children in tow, hoping to register them for the week-long Vacation Bible School.

Several glanced my way, sizing me up, but didn’t hold my gaze long. I encouraged and played with my kids, but we stood alone, not included in others’ conversations.

It was a rude awakening, but insightful. They behaved much like I did in the same situation. I place a higher value on relationships now, having a greater appreciation for the friendships I’ve already developed and being more willing to invest in new ones.

Love your neighbor as yourself

“But the stranger who resides with you shall be to you like someone native-born among you; and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34 AMP).

As the sun beat down on the top of my head, I noticed a woman making her way down the line greeting people. She managed to animate the crowd with her friendliness, laughter erupting wherever she stopped. She didn’t bypass me. Instead she introduced herself, asked questions about my family, listened intently.

In the next few weeks our sons became friends at school. I entertained the notion that Friendly Woman was my new best friend exclusively. Then I remembered it appeared she made everyone feel that way.

Let’s not forget how it feels to be unnoticed, or how the kindness of one person can make our day.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

God Shows His Delight in Us – Zephaniah 3:16-17

My grandchildren have great radar, and it’s not because I carry candy in my purse. They are genuinely delighted to see me when I walk into church. Nothing is sweeter than hearing them holler “Grandma!” and come running to wrap their arms around me.

children-hugging-pexels-free-pixabay

We should call out to God like that

Some people don’t have the kind of family relationships they desire. There may be geographic or emotional distance, or other things that cause them pain.

We know how that feels, too.

When I think of this, I remember the foster child who lives in my grandchildren’s home. He’s right there with them, calling “Grandma!” and holding on to me. Though traumatized and separated from his birth family, he joins in, knowing I’ll hear and embrace him.

“Yea, you’re here!”

“Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:16-17 NIV).

God doesn’t just care deeply, he is “greatly delighted” with us. He’s with us. There’s rejoicing and singing. Everything’s going to be OK.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis