I recently signed up to review the book Strangers at My Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. In it he tells of the failures, successes, and surprises of treating everyone who comes to the door at their house as if the person was Jesus. This is an ancient practice, outlined by St. Benedict in his monastic rule over 1500 years ago (and was likely around before that, but the Benedictines have kept the practice alive).
Tonight I had the opportunity to practice treating the strangers in my yard like Jesus. This is where people interact with me more. My youngest and I were out in the yard throwing around a football tonight. First, a woman approached the fence. She said she had been walking through the neighborhood trying to find some work...her check hadn't come today and she had a young one at home to feed.
In our part of the world, there are a lot of people out there asking for food and money. On weekends I can see several people on street corners in a short drive. Sometimes we keep food in the car to give them; sometimes I turn a blind eye.
It was easier to help the woman tonight. She wasn't asking for money or a hand out. She was asking if she could do some cleaning or some other work for us and afterward we'd take her to the grocery store for food. We're low on food in the house, but we put together a bag of somethings to hopefully help her and her family. She was grateful at least.
A little while later an older man came along and was commenting on how nice it was to see my son and I playing catch. He was encouraging Nils to keep getting better. Apparently he had seen him rollerblading and playing street hockey with Beth a few weeks ago. He was encouraging and appreciative that we were spending time together as a father and son.
Even from a few yards away, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. It would have been easy to dismiss him as just some drunk. And if he had been surly, or cursing, or loud, I probably would have. But it was easy to engage him and be respectful in hearing what he wanted to say.
Not long afterward our neighbor from down the block brought her dog up to play catch in the yard with the boys.
I am not always good at engaging the person walking by my yard. Sometimes I'm caught up in gardening or yard work. Sometimes I don't want to acknowledge them. Sometimes they don't want to be acknowledged. I've had my share of really bad experiences with people on the other side of the fence, too. But I'm finding that I need to see the other and treat them as Jesus as best I can. Tonight was rewarding in ways that I wouldn't have been looking for.