Never Meet a Stranger

Savannah Wood, 19

This summer, I worked with a woman who never met a stranger. Betty talked to every visitor at the museum where we worked, whether she had known them for a few minutes or for years. She asked them questions and listened to their answers. She genuinely cared about and was interested in every person who came through the front door.

Lionel train FTR TSP 100299406Betty saw the best in everyone. The museum included a layout of Lionel toy trains, and my job was engineering. I’m not gifted mechanically, so engineering was way out of my comfort zone. Betty always pointed out how well I was doing; and when I didn’t do well, she knew how to make me feel better. Betty embodied hospitality. Just being around her made people feel comfortable and important.

When I think of hospitality, I imagine rolling out the red carpet when someone comes to visit. But we don’t need to invite someone over to practice hospitality; we can practice hospitality in our everyday interactions with people, even people we probably will never see again. When we’re little, we learn about stranger danger; and when we’re older, we tend to be apprehensive with people until we get to know them. We also tend to value people according to what they can do for us. If we’re never going to see someone again, we are likely to feel that investing in him or her isn’t worth our time and energy.

As I watched Betty interact with people at work, I began to notice my own interactions. Mine were more apprehensive and scripted. I did only what I needed to do to be polite. The way Betty treated people made them feel important and appreciated. The way I treated people made them feel like just another visitor among many at the museum.

Hebrews 13:1–2 (NIV) says, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” People we don’t yet know may be strangers to us, but God knows them as sons and daughters.

Cell phones and the Internet have connected our world in incredible ways; yet more and more people feel lonely. Sure, we can use technology to minister to friends and strangers; but these days, face-to-face interactions seem to be more important than ever. We can show God’s love to others by offering them friendliness, hospitality, encouragement, respect, genuine interest, and concern. Plus, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of short and simple interactions, even with people we may never see again. These brief encounters can be great opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.



You’ve probably heard that people forget what you say or how you say it, but they never forget how you make them feel. When has someone’s hospitality inspired you to believe in yourself? Do you remember how good you felt? In Matthew 5:16 (NIV) we are called to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Let’s show God’s love through hospitality. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Smile!
  • Thank You note2 TSP 167171910Offer a compliment.
  • Listen to what another person has to say.
  • Ask questions. Let people know you’re interested in them.
  • Practice the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31, NIV): “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
  • Say, “Thank you!”
  • When you see someone sitting alone, invite him or her to sit with you.
  • Send a letter to your former teachers, letting them know the difference they made in your life.
  • Help someone who is carrying a heavy load.
Savannah Wood, 19 , is a college student from Iowa who loves history, nature, reading, music, writing, spending time with family, and being involved in her church.

—from devozine (September/October 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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