Sister Margaret Murphy stood at the edge of a busy thoroughfare, looking at the restaurant on the other side.
She had promised to meet friends there, but the pavement looked icy. Traffic was heavy, too.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I couldn’t cross the street, but going back wasn’t an option. It was sleeting and the sidewalks were getting icy too.”
Suddenly an old car pulled over. It seemed to be piled to the roof with stuff.
A voice asked if Sr. Margaret would like a ride. A teenage boy made room on the backseat for her.
“I think they were living in the car,” Sr. Margaret says.
“They drove me to the restaurant. I said, I have nothing to give you for it. They said they didn’t want anything.”
Sr. Margaret realized as she got out that she herself was the stranger.
“They didn’t know me at all, yet they had cared for me.”
Really, they had cared for each other.
The welcome given was gratefully accepted, creating a relationship that left them all grateful.
To do it, though, both parties had to set aside their mutual fear of the stranger.
While we might wisely proceed with caution in such situations – no one would suggest we should offer or accept rides from strangers today – we do have cell phones that can be used to call for help.
However we manage to calm our fears and connect with “the other,” the love and gratitude we feel deeply nourishes us.
It’s hospitality as Jesus both modeled and taught us.