27: Gifts from strangers #Lent2021

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (Luke 10:33-34)

I rang for help and by 4am a party of three turned up at my door: one specialist nurse and two ambos. We chatted for a while and they confirmed my fears, so they arranged for me to go to hospital. It was a novel experience to drive through the crack of dawn where all I could see was the tops of the trees, some light poles and a few wires, and the occasional steeple or multi-story building.

They handed me over to the United Nations, where doctors with Irish, Indian and Spanish accents led staff from all around the world: India, Cambodia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Laos, Vietnam and Nepal, not to forget the Scot straight from Glasgow.

All of them sharing this amazing gift of care. Spending their lives serving others in their time of need. Making sure we were comfortable, well fed and treated with dignity, even as we wandered around in hospital gowns tied at the back but not always fully decent.

This happened several times within a few weeks and my world was full of caring people. Strangers who expressed love through practical concern.

So my Christmas was very special.

And then, once I was out of hospital, I went to lunch at the Pavilion, a beautiful location, and enjoyed good food as I watched the sea roar.

When we came to have coffee, the waitress squatted down so she was at eye level and whispered so no one else could hear, ‘The people at the table behind you have just left: they paid for your lunch and for coffee afterwards. It was a random act of kindness.’

I was flabbergasted and delighted. What a wonderful Christmas present! All I could do was accept with humility and reflect on the wonder of God’s extraordinary gift of Jesus. Ω

Reflect: When have you experienced the compassion and care of someone you might classify as a stranger, a foreigner, or an outsider? Pray about it, and ask God to open your heart to those wounded by the roadside, that you might become that loving stranger to someone else.

What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of intense reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent.

#Lent2021. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent, Sanctuary, 2021. Image credit: Rachel Coyne on Unsplash.

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