Welcoming strangers is central to the Judeo-Christian tradition. It widens a circle of community with others. To include those we do not yet know creates opportunities to meet, greet and expand our understanding of others. This concept is grounded in the ancient Jewish understanding of shalom.
The Biblical concept of shalom embraces a communal sense of mind, body and spiritual wholeness grounded in peace. An important spiritual practice, the word stranger and the concept of welcoming others appear in the Bible 63 times. (Bible Gateway.com).
Welcoming strangers is especially important in senior living communities. Moving into a new home can be a stressful transition. Leaving the security of a familiar space surrounded by possessions that hold warm memories is difficult. It can be a challenge during those first few days of moving and settling in.
Parkvue Place has created an ambassador program. It’s rooted in our United Church Homes’ core value of hospitality to address these transition issues. The mission is to offer friendly support to new residents as they settle into their new home. Our ambassador’s smiling face is a pleasant welcome at an unsettling time. They answer questions about numerous daily life issues, both large and small. They help the new resident with keys, the bulletin boards, the dining room and community activities.
Creating Opportunities for Abundant Life
I enjoy watching a table of smiling faces warmly welcome a new resident to join them. This interaction becomes animated as conversation begins. People find interesting ways to connect with others. During a welcoming conversation, some learn they have many commonalities. They may have lived in nearby neighborhoods, others were members of the same church. People often find a connection through school or work. It is a joy to watch these relationships deepen and develop over time into friendships. This includes opportunities to invite people to join a variety of activities that include pool exercise and Bible study.
Over time, our willingness to welcome strangers enhances the life of our community. It strengthens a spiritual sense of wholeness and shalom and creates a warm energy that surrounds our entire building.
Living Our Faith
As Christians and followers of Jesus, we are challenged to journey with him to learn and strengthen our own faith. His teaching and preaching are grounded in the concept of welcoming and nurturing strangers. His healing ministry embraced all seekers, even those outcasts and living on the margins of society. This also included tax collectors and those of other ethnicities, even gentiles. Jesus especially welcomed strangers. He encouraged others to share God’s love and grace with those in need.
Jesus understood the power of status quo and the unwillingness of the ancient temple and military leaders to alter their rigid systems of rule. They viewed the ministry of Jesus as a threat to their structure. Jesus continued to persevere in ministry, living his faith, caring and loving all God’s children. It has been a difficult for people throughout the generations to step out of their comfort zones and welcome others. And yet, as our society becomes more diverse, we are challenged to welcome strangers with care and kindness.
May we, courageously open our hearts with simple gestures. A warm smile to a stranger can slowly open spaces to enlarge community. A warm welcome can enhance an environment that embraces a sense of shalom, wholeness and peace.