The golden rule
Garrison Keillor writes of the day years ago when he tripped on the curb at 88th Street in New York City, fell and landed on his hands and knees. “Within four seconds, four people were there to help me, a construction guy, a woman, a young Black guy and a man in a suit. They asked if I was OK. I said yes and got up on my own steam, but I remember this scene clearly. It spoke to me deeply. It still does.”
In olden times, travelers might traverse days without coming across an inn or an inn with the vacancy sign out. Wayfaring strangers slept under the stars, hungry, or, if they were lucky, a kind family took them in for the night and fed them.
In the 16th century, John Calvin scolded Christians for not practicing better hospitality to strangers. He preached that “the increasing dependence on inns rather than on personal hospitality” was an expression of “human depravity.”
In Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” after Blanche DuBois has a nervous breakdown, as the doctor is committing her to a mental hospital, she says to him, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
My friend Ellen moved to the Atlanta area recently to live closer to her only child. In March, a tornado struck her brand new, design-by-Ellen house, badly damaging it. Within minutes, total strangers descended and started helping her move rubble. There were no introductions; everyone just pitched in. One stranger brought her a boxed honey-baked ham sandwich, after adding a piece of fruit and a dessert. Ellen said it was “the best food I ever tasted.”
Do unto strangers as you would have strangers do unto you, should you ever find yourself in their shoes.