The Kindness of Strangers, the Meanness of Others

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

An interesting story came my way this weekend that holds up for us the dichotomy of human experience in a fragile balance.  The story as I heard it, in shorthand:

A group of our sisters went to a play here in town and met for dinner at a nearby restaurant ahead of time. Parking was tight and time was short, so the two carloads of theater-goers parked under a NO PARKING SIGN, which said violators will be towed. Well…. It was Saturday night, the establishment that owned the parking spaces was closed, the restaurant was right there. It should be okay.  They went to the restaurant, ordered their meal, enjoyed each other’s company and along comes a waitress with bad news. Your cars are being towed. OH NO! the drivers rushed out, too late to stop the tow trucks. NOW WHAT? Can you imagine?

Here is where the kindness of strangers comes in. Some restaurant patrons heard the fuss and offered to take the sisters to the theater, about a mile away. Yes! There are thoughtful, generous people in the world. Later that night, other generous sisters came to take the drivers to the tow-away location to retrieve the cars and go home. A happy ending to the story. It was noted, in all the fuss, that the shop owner who also owned the parking places was notorious for watching out the window for violators and calling the tow company. Snaring a $168.00 fee each. Just plain mean.

So what are we to make of this story, and what would Jesus say?  The story of the weeds and the wheat in Matthew 13 comes to mind.

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Let them grow together…  so Jesus is asking us to abide the ill will or evil of others in such a way that God will make a proper judgement, not us. Our place in the kingdom is to do good, to extend a kindness to a stranger, even to the business owner whose actions seemed so mean. To be the balance of good in a world with such a capacity for meanness. Small things and large.

Most of us can only add good when we see and hear of evil, we have little power to change the vastness of the world’s problems. We grow up with the weeds, and it may be that we cannot always tell one from the other. So my prayer today is that we would act in the moment when it is right to extend good to the stranger, to the neighbor, the shop owner, our family, our friends, to the world we inhabit.

Lord, help me see the kindness of strangers as a sign of hope and open my heart to be grateful that the balance of weeds and wheat is up to you.   Amen.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

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