As I saw the post this week for Writer’s Island, I immediately decided that my comforted norm of poetry was not what I wished to do. I began to analyze the term “stranger” and what it means to me.
In the not so distance past I had a serious “priority dysfunction”, and make no mistake, I still struggle with it today although to a much lesser degree. There was a time when I was completely oblivious to how I’d arrived at such a place of self-absorption.
Back then I would have described “stranger” as some odd combination of “stray” and “danger”. Don’t ask me why. I’m still surprised, and to be honest, a little embarrassed, to ‘hear’ that kind of description leaking from my brain. Stray----an outcast; someone segregated from my acquaintance for unjustifiable reasons. Danger---something representing harm. Why would I perceive a person I don’t know as inherently dangerous? Perhaps I’d been programmed by the world to fear difference, change, and intrusive things that I did not allowed into my own tiny world. Ah hah, worldly influence had corrupted my impressionable mind. Yes-------that sounds good, just another victim of circumstances beyond my control; a common diagnosis these days. What a copout; conveniently pinning my personal shortcomings on an unsuspecting world.
The Samaritan in the Bible didn’t need such an excuse. Considering the times, no one would have thought less of him for simply passing by, but he didn’t. He wasn’t too busy to stoop down and help a wounded man, who was not at all part of his culture. At least for a small moment in time, the Samaritan swept aside the differences they may have had to help a brother in need.
Why did I believe that my schedule couldn’t allow for a few extra minutes to help someone stranded by the road, stuck in a snowy ditch, or a lonely elderly neighbor that longed for a tidbit of honest conversation? I can’t answer that fully or I would have never reached that point. I can only tell you about my new perspective.
Now “stranger” represents a friend I have yet to have the opportunity to share a cup of coffee with. Perhaps a culturally distant individual that I can now view, since I’ve broken down the walls I so carefully erected. It could be a long-lost friend whom I no longer recognize because of severed ties.
Looking back on it, the seemingly odd combination of “stray” and “danger” quite accurately describe me lingering in that broken state. I was straying from a lifestyle I knew to be right and in danger of loosing my compassion for fellow human beings.