By: Autumn Elizabeth
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Once on the streets of Chicago, in the dark, all alone, I passed a women sitting on the street with her young child. I walked past her, and right behind me, a well-dressed women passed her as well. Then as if we both heard the same whisper of the Divine, we turned around at the same moment.
We walked back to the women and her child. We shared our names. My work with house-less people taught me that many go weeks without hearing their own name. So I spoke this woman’s name, I spoke her son’s name. I let her speak my name. We named each other, three woman and one tiny boy on the streets of an unforgiving city. I wrote her name down many times, and although I have now forgotten it, it still burns fiercely in my notebook, in another Midwest town, while I again try to find the words for everything that passed between us.
Though the well-dressed woman and I both had other places to be, we stayed on the street. Our new friend shared her story while shielding her small son from the chilly winds of the windy city. She told us her son never missed a day of kindergarten, but that his free school lunch was often his only meal. I gave her the food I had with me, and then the well-dressed woman asked the words I was about to speak, “Can we pray with you?”. We prayed, three women, three strangers in the middle of the sidewalk in downtown Chicago.
Three powerful women harmonized an Amen, and it was clear that it was time for each of us to continue our own separate journeys. As I stood up and began to walk away, I looked back on the woman and child still sitting on the city sidewalk. The bible stories of my childhood swelled within me–a mother and child, no room at the inn, the last shall be first. For a brief moment, strangers had joined a mother and child, offered gifts and joined together in prayer. Angels, strangers, sisters, brothers, friends, enemies are all one in moments of prayer. When we prayed we became more than strangers, we became the living story of Jesus.