I’m not really a good driver. Ask anyone that has ever ridden in a car with me, and they won’t hesitate to tell you that I get distracted really easily. This afternoon on my way home from work, I was flipped off by a stranger in a white truck while I passed him in the left lane. In my defense, I honestly don’t know what I did wrong to make him so mad at me. I also don’t know what kind of person it is that feels the need to express their disapproval with such a rude gesture over something as trivial as a teenager’s bad driving. However, in his defense, I probably was unintentionally tailgating him or something like that. The point is, after a long day of sitting in the hot sun, getting ignored by rowdy children (I’m a lifeguard), and being hit in the head with canoe paddles, I was rudely insulted by someone who didn’t know me, didn’t know anything about my life, and not to mention, couldn’t even see my face. I realize that this really isn’t that big of a deal, but it really shows the condition that most people live in.
That man didn’t know me. He didn’t know my name or where I was going or coming from. He didn’t know what kind of day I was having or what struggles I may be facing. I mean, his gesture didn’t really bother me that much, but what if my circumstances were different? What if I was on the way to the hospital to visit my sick grandmother? What if I was headed home after being fired from my job? Maybe I had just lost a loved one, maybe I had just signed divorce papers that day, or maybe I just found out that one of my friends had cancer. Whatever struggle I may have been facing at that particular time, he had no clue about. All I could think was: If he really knew me, would he have been less likely to be so rude to me? Since he didn’t know me, it was easy to be rude. He was never going to see me again, so what did it matter?
Now, I don’t know this man either. I can’t judge his actions either. He may have been the one to have lost his job or maybe he found out that a loved one has cancer, and he just needed an outlet for his frustration. Something that I’ve been realizing more and more lately is that we never know what another person is going through. Whether it’s a stranger or someone as close as our own brother or sister, we never know everything that another person is struggling with. Which convicts me to treat everyone, no matter how they may be treating me, with kindness and understanding.
I’ve heard several stories about people who were planning to commit suicide, and the tiniest act of kindness from one person convinced them not to. You never know how the smallest action can influence not only someone’s day, but maybe even their life.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
This verse tells us to love strangers and treat them with kindness, because they may have been sent to us for a reason. Maybe that rude cashier needs to be shown some love. Maybe the waiter that takes twenty minutes to refill your drink needs to hear some encouragement. Maybe that obnoxious man beside you in the movies needs to hear that there is a God that loves him.
God tells us to consume others with our kindness and love, and to recognize a stranger as another precious soul, with feelings and insecurities and challenges just like we have. It’s so hard to be nice to people who aren’t nice to you. It’s so easy to run recklessly through life not caring about the random strangers you encounter along the way. But each random stranger is another human being with a mind and a heart, they’re someone’s daughter or sister or brother. They have a unique, complex story that you know nothing about. I would hate to be the person that adds to the list of heartaches of someone I didn’t know, even if I did it unintentionally. I truly believe that the way you treat strangers says a lot about your character. I also believe that how you respond to other’s rudeness or disrespect says a lot about you too.
God doesn’t just love you and the people you know. He doesn’t just love me and the people I know. He loves the man arguing with the manager about a coupon and the woman who won’t hush her screaming child. He loves the rowdy group of boys that wouldn’t stop running around the pool at my job today. He loves them, so we should too.