In Hebrews 13:2 the writer says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

I like the idea that you never know who you are talking to so why not be kind to strangers instead of ignoring them or being rude to them.  I observe both sides of this coin in my work with cancer patients in Froedtert’s outpatient cancer clinic. On the one hand I see patients check in and sit down in the waiting area who pretty much keep to themselves.  They don’t look around at anyone else.  They don’t make eye contact or smile at anyone.  They put their newspapers up so you can’t see their faces.  They put in their ear buds and close their eyes.  The message is clear.  I don’t want to talk to you and I don’t want you to talk to me.  On the other hand I see patients check in who sit down to wait for their name to be called who make eye contact with others around them.  They smile.  They ask where people are from.  They say, ” No kidding, you’re from Sheboygan?  We’re from Howards Grove.  We’re practically neighbors.” And from there the conversation deepens and the sharing begins about how things are going with the treatments.  The patient from Sheboygan goes home that day in better spirits because they met a stranger who was kind to them.  The patient wonders was that stranger an angel in disguise?

I understand how hard it is to be a cancer patient undergoing treatment.  You don’t feel well.  You don’t sleep well.  You are anxious about how the treatments are going.  You would rather be any where else than in this waiting room looking at countless others who are just as sick if not sicker than you are.  Why would you want to talk to anyone else?  Why would you want to hear about someone else’s problems when you have plenty of your own?  So you can put up the walls and shut everyone else out to protect yourself from having your burden made heavier by taking on someone else’s problems. Or you can connect with those around you and discover that an act of kindness on your part can lighten the load of someone else.  In listening to someone else’s troubles you forget about your own.  In sharing how you have gotten through your treatments you give someone else some ideas how they might deal with some of their side effects.  In connecting with someone else you discover you are not alone.  You find a fellow soldier in the next foxhole and you can watch out for each other.  Together you can fight this disease and encourage one another when the battle gets fierce.

Something to think about isn’t it?  You can be an angel to a stranger.  Or you can allow a stranger to be an angel to you.  In an airport, in a cancer center, in a grocery store, in a long line waiting to buy a ticket, there is always a place to meet a stranger who might be an angel.

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