It was such a blessing to attend worship this morning in honor of World Day of Prayer, a worldwide ecumenical movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer and action each year on the first Friday in March. (This was my first!)
Each year a different country serves as writer of the World Day of Prayer worship service. In this year’s focus , the French World Day of Prayer committee looked for a Christian response to struggles concerning immigration and for ways to welcome “the stranger,” as World Day of Prayer USA also recognized the need to express love to all God’s people and find creative ways to live at peace in an increasingly diverse society.
The prayer focus was to pray to God to make you open to welcoming strangers, asking God to remove judgement from your heart and help you see each person as a human being, a child of God, worthy of respect and dignity.
For myself, I took the service a bit less literally as my struggles are certainly not in judging strangers. I’m all for a potpourri of nationalities. Especially since so many different nationalities accept me! (I’ve been asked so many times if I am Indian or European and once someone thought I was from England!) And according to my blog stats, people from many other countries read my blog and I am honored by that.
Therefore, in return, my acceptance door is WIDE-OPEN to strangers, as a stranger is just a friend you haven’t officially met.
So where do my struggles lie in regard to acceptance?
Not in strangers, but accepting people who have “strange ways.”
By “strange ways” I do not mean people who have different cultures than myself. I mean people who are not friendly as I am; people who are stand-offish and mean; people who are negative; people who are obsessively materialistic.
These types of people are “strange” to me because it’s the furthest thing from my world, as I tend to surround myself with the most positive, most amazing, generous people!
Here’s a little story:
As some of you know once a week I help out at a health food store. I love this job because as you also know, health is my livelihood. It takes less than three hours of my time to unpack a large order and put items on a shelf. For these three hours I am paid very handsomely and the owner of the shop is just terrific, as he loves music and is a great boss.
The hard part, for me, is that the cook in the back doesn’t like me.
I don’t know why, or what I did to her, but she is always cold to me whereas she’ll speak nicely to others. It’s not like we have nothing in common, as I like some of the same music and even relate to her Irish ways as I LOVE Guinness beer. She knows this and yesterday when I spoke to her she turned her head and acted as if I wasn’t there. She didn’t even say hello to me and seems to only speak to me if she has to say “excuse me” if I’m in her way. What a bummer.
But I know my strength in God is becoming stronger as I didn’t feel as bad or hurt as I normally would. Why should I? I belong there like anyone else. I deserve a job/client, especially when it’s doing something I love and in a great environment with a great boss.
Whatever the reason this woman has for disliking me is out of my hands. Most likely it’s her imagination running away with her thinking I’m a bad person or not cool enough for her, or maybe I am “too good” for her. Some people just don’t like upbeat positive people and it bothers them. Sad, but true. So, I just go about my work and if next time she talks, fine; if not that is fine too.
This is what I mean about “strange ways.”
Not everyone is going to have my upbeat, dynamic personality and view the world as I see it, a place where angels are all around us helping and protecting us; a world where it’s a great place to wake up in the morning even when my business is slow and things aren’t perfect; a world where aging is an opportunity to make more of our dreams come true, not a time to be held back; a world with so much love and possibilities!
And as a child of God, I have to somehow come to terms with that fact — that not everyone has opened the door with the happiness key.
So for me, yes, it is so easy to welcome a stranger, especially if they allow me to welcome them.
But for a stranger (or someone with “strange ways”) who doesn’t welcome me this is what I will do from here one in:
I will still make him/her feel welcome with a smile or a soft welcoming vibe. Even if I smile to myself dissipate tension.
People with strange ways can make being a Christian tough. Because sometimes if you talk to someone and they don’t want to talk to you they take that as a negative. For example, I once has a woman who disliked me yell at me for simply saying “hello” to her.
She actually snapped at me and said, “DON’T FORCE IT!”
Even though I was always nice to her.
It’s also hard because you never know what people are feeling inside. Just like how you don’t know when an animal barks and nips at you — even though you are an animal lover!
It’s like, “Hey, I’m not the enemy! What’s the matter? I’M EASY! I LIKE YOU!”
And it’s true. I am easy. I do like you! Because no matter how much someone gets on your nerves, there is always a little good in everyone and it doesn’t hurt to find that good even if it’s for a short time. A smile, a “how are you?” a nod of the head. That can open up a world of goodness in anyone!
But the good news is, you can still love with a gentle heart (not always easy, but it can be done). And if you are often in a state of happiness, you can keep that going and not let someone’s bad vibe take that away from you. The more you remain in your blissful state, the more you can overcome the “strangeness.” And who knows, maybe a strange, unwelcoming person will someday not be so strange and unwelcoming.
We can all work together — and this is just some food for thought on World Day of Prayer!