The charity of strangers
There’s something rather humbling about standing in the foyer of Carlson’s Grocery talking with two young strangers who are about to donate $300 of items to our local food bank.
Emma and Ashley were from New York and Virginia, and they came to town with a group of kids from Oregon, California, Minnesota, and elsewhere with the crazy idea that they were going to change the world, one project at a time. At 18 to 24 years old they’re not exactly kids, but as I zero in on 60, they sure look like it.
As an AmeriCorps team, they spent a week at Homestead Assisted Living painting walls and each other, swapping out switch plates, scouring grime from appliances, and ripping out carpet.
None of them had ever been to Marion; we were as much strangers to them as they were to us.
Yet looking at strangers, I saw my younger self, the one who took a group to New Mexico to repair adobe, paint, fix fences, and generally spruce up a small church. I saw the guy who went to the Navajo reservation in southern Utah to fix houses and run a vacation Bible school. I saw the college student who never met a low-income winterization project or charity car wash he didn’t like.
I was going to change the world, and I did a little bit; however, the world changed me, too, or more specifically, the strangers I met did. Turned out they weren’t so strange after all. They were welcoming, accepting, gracious, kind, and appreciative. We had far more in common than I realized.
I’d like to think that Emma and Ashley and their friends found a little of that when they went bowling, swimming, shopping, and exploring in their brief time here.
They said they were making the donation because they wanted to “give back” to the community. Just think about that a minute. These strangers spent almost five days creating living opportunities for our seniors, and they wanted to give back? They even cut back on their own food so they could make a bigger donation.
What better time than Christmas to be humbled by youngsters? What better way to demonstrate the kind of giving that Christmas is supposed to be all about?
As you scurry about your last-minute Christmas shopping to find those special gifts, don’t forget that God didn’t give the world an xBox or a smartphone for Christmas. He gave a Savior who changes the world a little bit at a time with each heart he touches.
Cut through all the trappings, tighten your belt a little bit like those AmeriCorps kids, and give a little something extra to the strangers in your lives this year. You might even find some of them next door.
— david colburn