Acknowledge the Kindness of Strangers
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Bishops Blog - Bishop's Blog: Post
Bishop Mariann’s Blog
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The kindness of strangers on the Camino became a constant teacher for me. Each gesture of goodness stood out as a lesson in love. Each opportunity to receive an unexpected gift of care was an occasion to grow in both amazement and awareness of how powerful those simple gestures can be. They not only provide for a need, they also bring hope to the heart...Each of us is called to give and receive this precious gift that brings light to the darkest places and soothes the greatest sorrows.
-Joyce Rupp, Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino
I've spent much of the last week thinking through all that happened at the Episcopal Church's General Convention, partly in response to the public discourse about our church in the media, and informally as friends and colleagues ask about it.
I'll leave discussion about the decisions and potential results from Convention for another time and place. Today I remember the hundreds of people who volunteered their time simply to be of help. Without exception, every time I had a question about where a gathering was held, or where to go, or simply where I was in the maze of the Indianapolis Convention Center and adjacent hotels, there was someone in a brightly colored vest ready to assist me. I was typically late for meetings, and those standing by with a smile and directions spared me the embarrassment of feeling hopelessly lost in a great sea of efficient and busy Episcopalians.
It often takes stepping out of our familiar environments to realize the power of simple gestures of kindness. Traveling to foreign lands, or walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood, we can lose our bearings. And while our GPS systems and smart phones can help, there's nothing quite like a friendly person offering assistance to remind us that we're all companions, as Rupp would say, on the pilgrimage of life.
My deepest regret at General Convention is that I didn't take the time to spend with an old friend, Lazaro Juarez, a lay deputy from the Episcopal Church in Honduras. Lazaro is the Honduran Director of El Hogar Projects, a home for abandoned children in Honduras, where Paul and I lived years ago and where I've often returned with family and work groups. Once, I was there with our sons and our youngest, who was 8 years at the time, needed medical attention. Lazaro dropped everything he needed to do that day in order to drive us 20 miles to the nearest town and waited until Patrick could be seen by a doctor. His kindness and concern was a palpable expression of grace.
At General Convention, we passed in the hall several times and greeted each other in the hotel restaurant. I assured him that I hope to return to Honduras someday. But I never extended to him the gracious hospitality and concern that he so freely gave when my family and I were guests in his country.
And so today, as I give thanks for the kindness shown to me by friend and stranger, and lament a missed opportunity to offer kindness to one visiting our country, I am reminded of the power such kindness holds. I pray to be more mindful of that power and attentive for moments to both give and receive this precious gift.
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