The Blessings of Strangers

Friday, May 30


Barbara Howard

By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA


…the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

—Numbers 6:25–26 NRSV

I looked up at the clerk while I muttered about my inefficient brain as I shuffled through my wallet to find my credit card. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I forgot my own birthday.” A pause, then she said, her voice trembling, “But my mother just died.”

I handed her my credit card and looked into her tear-filled eyes. “I’m sorry.” I said. Then, as she struggled for composure, I said, “I have only one daughter. She is the most terrific woman I know. She teases me about the women friends I have—the “daughters-of-my heart.” The clerk smiled. “Bobbie,” I said, seeing her identity card, “let’s call you a daughter-of-my-heart.” Again her eyes filled. “Thank you,” she said, and finished the transaction.

I started to walk away with my package, when she came from behind the counter, both arms outstretched. She hugged me tightly, tears filling her eyes again. “Happy birthday, and bless you,” I said as I left the store.

On the way to the car, moved by the experience, I wondered how many hurting wounded people I see during the various activities each day. I vowed I would cease ignoring strangers. I will look them in the eyes, smile, and if they respond, perhaps I’ll speak to them. Just as I completed the thought, a young man approached, head down, his red hair shining in the sun.

“You have beautiful hair,” I said. He looked up, gave me a half-smile, and said, “Thanks.” Then, in a lower voice, he said, “I get teased about it at school.” I responded, “Well, just remember, it is beautiful.” He smiled again.

As I drove from the mall, I felt so blessed, so thankful—as though someone had given me a gift. My prayer list increased to include Bobbie and a young man whose name I didn’t know.

I came home with a new understanding of my role as an evangelist. Our call is to bless. But how seldom I think of the blessings I receive. My mall experience lifted my spirits, gave me incredible energy, and something to remember always—there are people all around us who are hurting. To share that pain is a blessing to us. By simply accepting another as a pilgrim in life beside us, we strengthen and energize our community.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, help us see past the smile to the pain in someone’s eyes. Let us return the smile with compassionate eyes, sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has of you and every child. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pray for the next person I see.

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  1. My life has been richly blessed since I began looking every person in the eye. I have received some returned smiles and brief conversations. I feel something melt in me with each encounter and know I am practicing seeing God’s creation with God’s eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Marvel Riley

     /  2 June 2014

    My husband and I were sitting in a salesman’s office to learn about the programs available for staying in campgrounds in various parts of North America. During our time together, he mentioned that his son had very recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia. As we got ready to leave, I felt I needed to give him a hug, which I did. His response was, “Thanks, I needed that. As long as you are giving away hugs, I’ll take another one.”

    Thanks for the reminder to be more alert to the hurt others feel.

  3. Vera Entwistle

     /  30 May 2014

    As always, your sharing touches my heart. Thanks for this reminder that all around us are those who need a kind word. Love you lots!

  4. Gladys Geis

     /  30 May 2014

    Thanks much Barbara God is at work in the world. Thanks so much for being a part of that work.

  5. Connie Lane Lindeen

     /  30 May 2014

    Barbara thank you for the much needed reminders.

  6. Sharon Norris Sharon Norris

     /  30 May 2014

    Barbara, you just confirmed again for me my call to Evangelist. I have been talking to strangers every where I go since I can remember, and have been blessed because of it:) I love you and Dick dearly, as anyone that knows you does also.

  7. Karen Porter

     /  30 May 2014

    you know how people say things happen for a reason? well I’m putting a total stranger on the prayer list because of it.

    This morning I picked up a screw in one of my tires & went to get it fixed. The tire was too worn to be fixed & that store wanted more than I could afford for replacements. So I went to Discount Tires here in Liberty. As I was waiting a man sat next to me (there were lots of other empty chairs he could have chosen). We got into a conversation & talked about several things. He called to get a prescription for cough medicine & when he hung up I told him about a generic I have used. He explained to me that he has terminal cancer (didn’t say what kind, but life expectancy was 100 days) & we talked about that. He told me about the “mad scientist” German doctor he had just been seeing in New York who is doing experimental treatments (he got in on a test) & the doctor has had something like 60 patients & so far none have died. I wished him well, got his name & said I would put him on our prayer list.

    So, with that in mind this father of 2 boys ages 10 & 12 is Jerry Bayton. Please keep him in your prayers.

  8. Carol (Bootman, Hershaw) Vail

     /  30 May 2014

    So much we center our thoughts on self, thanking you for all you do for me, when there are those around us who are hurting so much they can’t speak to call out to you. I hear them crying everyday, everywhere. I see it in their faces, I feel it in their touch. My heart aches for them. They are broken inside where no one can see, so no one knows how they hurt, yet the pain is unbearable. I pray for them. I cry for them. Lord, may your healing peace surround them, for you see them, you know them, you hear them crying behind those smiling faces. Hold hands with me as I hold their hands, Lord, as you grant them blessings, I want to be a blessing for them, too. You see, I am one of them as I am also one of your servants. They are my brothers and sisters.


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