Too Busy for an Angel
As I fight to end systemic oppression, I have to remind myself to slow down and listen to the stories of individuals who are impacted by that oppression.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
We all have special encounters with people who remind us to value each other’s humanity.
These are our angels.
One day, I watched a middle-aged Black man enter a Starbucks a few minutes after me. People avoided eye contact with him as he jollily said, “Good morning.” I wasn’t surprised that he was getting the silent treatment in this white, suburban coffee shop. His dark skin and tattered clothing marked him as different, and people greeted his genuine kindness with suspicion.
I made eye contact and said a quick hello, without realizing he interpreted my glance as an invitation to sit across from me and chat.
He said I had kind eyes so he knew I would listen.
His family was afraid to be around him because he was HIV positive. He started to cry as he told me he was trying to get his life together, but no one would give him a chance after his incarceration.
I encouraged him to not give up on himself and invited him to come to church with me.
We parted ways, and I haven’t seen him since. Wherever he is, I hope he knows that when I looked at him and told him he mattered, I meant it. And that when I listened, I actually heard him.
As I fight to end systemic oppression, I have to remind myself to slow down and listen to the stories of individuals who are impacted by that oppression. Collective liberation starts with us recognizing our shared humanity – perhaps with a stranger at Starbucks who just needs someone to hear them.
Thank God there are angels among us.