I’m that lady in the grocery store. You know the one. It’s not that I intend to be a menace, and certainly I am completely harmless. But if a baby smiles at me, I’m going to smile back. If a toddler wants to tell me something about his day, I’m going to respond. I do it so much that my own children get embarrassed and maybe a little flustered. “Mom, those parents do not know you; you’re going to get in trouble!” I’ve decided it’s better if I just leave my kids at home.
I think Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, would understand my position completely. As a widow who lived in the temple night and day, she certainly had plenty of opportunity to speak to strangers and offer them a word of hope. Sure, there were those who thought she was a little odd, who regarded her with more suspicion than gratitude. But I also believe there were those, like Joseph and Mary, who found affirmation and hope in her words of praise.
My kids might have a point. Stranger danger is a real thing, and teaching our children to be careful is important. But I believe it’s also important to continue filling the world with kindness. To smile, to offer a gentle word, to overcome evil with good. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
How has the ever-growing fearfulness in the world changed the way you interact with strangers? How do we convey care in a cautious culture?
God, we remember your instruction: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2). We’re embarrassed to admit that we let wariness silence our greetings, and fearfulness keep us from friendliness. Change our hearts, Friend of everyone, and help us find ways to reach out with love. Amen.