We meet new people every day. And there are times where people we haven’t met before become very close to us. There are times when we are not able to live the whole of a moment on our own. We see this mostly with those in hospital and those who are infirm and need care, perhaps at home. But these are not the only cases.
There may have been times where your vehicle was stuck and needed a push or a farmer came to pull you out of a ditch. There may be have been someone help you when suddenly taken ill on a train or airplane. How often did someone try and describe the direction you needed to take to get a few blocks away to a rather hidden entrance and decided to simply walk you there so that you would not be lost? We may think of the line in A Street Car Named Desire as Blanche Dubois says “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
It is through those we know and don’t know that intimately that we grow. Our reflexion in the mirror becomes sharper, more defined. It is less an image of ego and more a person broader in ideas and adapted to others. We are not so much then just the individual, but a composite – of parents, siblings, friends – and further now the individuals we meet. All of us have an influence and all leave a mark of varying degrees on us.
The stranger is the “other”. But equally is that we are the strangers to others. We may be the one offering kindness to a stranger, to those around us. We are not really strangers after the encounter. It is why in war it is dangerous to meet with the enemy; we might become less enemy as demonstrated at the meeting from the trenches in the First World War on Christmas Day. The kindness of strangers is only the beginning. It becomes the kindness of acquaintances.
The effort to be kind, and for some this may truly be the case, forces us to choose the selfish egoist path or enter the road of contact and sharing. Kindness is the key – a recognition if the need of another and a decision to help in some way this other person. How much we offer is another issue but we learn that kindness is priceless. What is offered is usually appreciated.
The stranger is ourselves. It is each one we meet who is an unknown to us, but becomes the one who, despite the unknown, is willing to reach out, even at personal cost, to help. For us then, the kindness of strangers is exemplified in the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 30-37) and the expense of this kindness is not quantifiable. It is simply treasure in Heaven because where our heart is so is our treasure (Matthew 6, 21).