“Kindness is the temporary suspension of indifference.” It was a story by Malcom Gladwell about the way his parents and some of their friends and their community in Canada provided a place for three refugees from Viet Nam in 1978. Each of the people did what they knew how to do, as they went about their lives. Offering meals. Offering housing. Offering friendship. Offering influence. Not in heroic ways, not in self-sacrificial ways. But also, in ways that were helpful. Together, those small acts gave two brothers and a young woman a place and a future.
As the episode ends, the group, gathered more than forty years after the welcome, reads together from Matthew 25.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
The righteous were surprised, it seems. They weren’t doing any big thing. They were simply choosing to not be indifferent to the needs that they saw.
Sometimes there is actually a low bar to seeing Jesus. Sometimes he’s on the other end of our helping hand.
Listen to the podcast episode: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
A year ago, I gathered 15 of the things that I say to people in times of loss and I put them into a small book called This Is Hard. I wanted a simple resource to send to people I know, to give to people I meet with. I may be helpful for you, too.