45: More Than a Stranger

45: More Than a Stranger

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times

More Than a Stranger

By Terry Ann Johnson

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

~Hebrews 13:2

The morning began early for me with the gloom of my beloved Granny’s funeral looming before me. Granny’s solid reassurance on life was the glue that had always held me together. Her faith had sprung from her as easily as the air flowed around you. Her death would leave a huge gap in this dreary world, one that could never be filled.

After the funeral, my husband Lynn and I, with our two daughters, drove to the little store we owned. The afternoon crawled along at a snail’s pace, but just before closing time, I spotted a scraggly, dirty man near the curb out front. A shiver ran up my spine as I looked at the long, dirty hair and threadbare, filthy trench coat of the stranger. Every once in a while, he’d glance over his shoulder at me, making me more nervous by the second. I rushed to find Lynn in the rear of the store. The look in his eyes told me he understood I was afraid, but I waited until we were alone to tell him about the stranger so we wouldn’t scare the girls.

Life began to move in what seemed like slow motion as I watched Lynn walk toward the stranger. Gruffly, Lynn asked the stranger what he was doing. Leaning forward, I tried to hear every word, not wanting to miss a thing. As the stranger spoke, Lynn relaxed his body, and I moved closer to hear better. In a quiet voice full of emotion, the stranger said he was waiting for us to leave so he could search our trash for food. I heard the man whisper that he was hungry, and that was all I needed to hear. I rushed back inside to make two sandwiches and grab a carton of milk. My hands quivered with emotion as I handed my meager offering to the stranger.

Slowly, the mysterious man reached out his hands and placed one on my shoulder while accepting the food with the other. He spoke in a soothing whisper, “God will always be with you.” The words seemed to vibrate through my very soul. My dear, sweet Granny had uttered those very words to me since I was a little girl. And I knew at that second she was sending me a message from the great beyond.

While the stranger took the food and headed toward town, Lynn and I walked arm in arm back to where our beautiful daughters waited. Barely five minutes passed before we regretted not doing more for the stranger. Rushing the girls into the car, we headed to find our mysterious stranger. We didn’t see a single car or person as we headed down the highway. Soon, I spotted the empty milk carton with the sandwich trash next it, but there was still no sign of the stranger anywhere. Confused, we drove into town, carefully watching every step of the twenty-some miles for any sign of him, but there was just a deserted highway.

While shivers ran the length of my body, the tears began to flow again. I had felt from the moment I handed that poor, raggedy man my small offering of nourishment that he was far more than he appeared. Now, as I remember that moment in my life when I felt so alone and lost, I cling to that memory. What appeared as a beggar brought faith back into my life and revived my thirsty soul.

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