Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WELCOME THE STRANGER

If you are listening at Mass and not scrolling through messages on your iPhone, you will eventually hear about welcoming the stranger during Old Testament readings. Deuteronomy reminds us that "You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19) Therefore, we are to extend to others the welcome we once received in a new land.

As we have seen, the current administration seems to have no connection to either the Old Testament or the New. "Welcoming the stranger" has been changed to--"Expel anyone who does not look like us." (Meaning, with brown skin.) Or, "Forbid anyone to enter this country who has a different religion." (Meaning, Muslims.)  It is beyond belief and deeply saddening that a country which was built on the skill and talent of immigrants should be closing its doors. But let me share a small, cheerful story in the midst of this chaos and worry.

Yesterday's Writers' Meeting was held at my house, high on the windy hill with clouds scudding by the windows and finally, sun appearing as we sipped tea, talked, and shared our writing news and manuscripts. My husband had wisely taken himself off to a nearby upscale coffee house with WiFi access, but as soon as he walked in, he saw it was crowded and noisy. As a man with ADD, noise short-circuits any kind of focus or work.

Driving into Northampton, he seated himself inside McDonald's, where all kinds of folks make themselves at home for a time. Nearby a man talked to himself, not into a phone, carrying on a solo conversation. At another table, a mother and father spoke European Spanish to their little girl, who responded in perfect Castilian Spanish. "The diction was so clear," Rick said, "I could understand most everything."

A few other folks looked as if they had either been sleeping rough or bunking at a homeless shelter in town. All of their belongings were stuffed into plastic bags at their feet, and they nursed a cup of coffee and sometimes a donut to pass the time.

As Rick recounted this, I thought--this is the way to welcome the stranger. Come on in. Sit yourself down. Have some hot coffee and maybe a donut. Put your belongings by your feet, and no one will ask you to leave.  If you are starring in a narrative within your head, that's fine, as long as you don't scare the customers. No one will bar you from entering due to skin color, religion, shapeless bundles, or mumbled words. Come on DOWN, my sister, my brother!

We have come to a pretty pass when McDonald's exemplifies biblical values far more than our government. I think we should invite The Donald to visit the fast food place, seat him with some coffee and fries and say, "Look around, honey. Open your heart to the stranger."

I wish. I suspect the only way I am going to survive the next 4 years with sanity intact is by remembering that The Donald's story is not God's story, and @realDonald will not have the last word. Or, as God so mercifully told me when I was in despair over the election, "My story is bigger than this story."

Keep the faith: remember that grace is God's breath; do whatever you need to do to resist, work for change, help the marginalized, the immigrant, the refugee, and know--this is not forever. Even if it feels like that sometimes.

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