The Rev. Dr. Michael Backlund
St. James, Sonora
Who are our neighbors?
What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like?
A weary middle-aged dental hygienist inched her hybrid forward to pay for her salted caramel mocha. The window barista told her that the guy in the Subaru ahead of her had paid for her coffee. She’d heard stories of such random acts of kindness, and had imagined should something ever so nice come her way, she’d be sure to pass it on. And so she did.
And so did they all until a weary middle-aged engineer accepting his double espresso and preparing to pay in turn for the stranger in the car behind him saw the barista’s smile as she him gave a small shake of her head and pointed behind him. He looked up into his rearview mirror and saw he was last in line. He raised his paper cup in a toast of thanksgiving to the universe, feeling lucky, but truth be told, just a tad guilty too. He rolled up his window and drove on home, alone with his thoughts, but determined that somehow the thanks he felt for the unexpected kindness of a stranger would not go unexpressed.
Later, the man’s weary husband arrived home beaten down by yet another grim day at his office in the Pentagon, and scowling, flung his cap on the hallway table with a great sigh. The engineer looked upon his husband with compassion and heard that earlier gesture of kindness whispering to his heart. And so he bear-hugged his grumpy man and said, “Thank you for loving me. I love you. I love us. Thank you.” The general’s heart warmed in gratitude for the unexpected gift, and he slept that night uncommonly well.
At his office the next day, the general heard his gratitude for the gift of his husband’s words whispering to his heart, and he found himself disinclined to authorize yet another strike on yet another tiny hamlet in an ancient and impoverished land far, far away. He thought, “Today my people shall rest. Tomorrow is soon enough for war.”
And in a tiny hamlet in an ancient and impoverished land far, far away, a young Shiite day laborer who would have died as collateral damage that day did not. And his son grew up with a father’s love and guidance, and the son’s anger that would have been a dreadnought of hate did not bloom within, and on one glorious morning, the son stood on the dais in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations as Secretary General and inaugurated the peace plan that would save the world.
Show kindness to strangers. Be a neighbor. You may unaware provide for angels.