Thinking about Summer’s arrival recently and my excitement for our annual family vacation, I wondered how others might be feeling. Perhaps some anticipation of time off and a trip? Perhaps a little apprehension if there was a change in schedule? Maybe hopes for “family time” or concerns about too much togetherness? Thoughts of lazy days by the pool, or mixed feelings about a first or last child heading off to college in the Fall, or possibly concerns about not having enough money to make any dreams come true?
For me, the joy of Summer is highlighted by our annual trip to Maine, along with extra opportunities to socialize and connect with people. I love to entertain friends and family at my home, but I also enjoy interacting with people that I do not know. With the often-disagreeable state of affairs in our country lately, I find it encouraging and refreshing to find ways to reach out to others I encounter throughout the day. With these thoughts in mind, I was touched by the sermon at a neighboring church I visited on Sunday. With permission, some excerpts follow:
“One of my life-long dreams came true less than three years ago. [We] bought a refrigerator with an external ice and water dispenser! This has been my dream since childhood. It all started when my neighbors, the Sickles family, installed a “newfangled” refrigerator when we were in elementary school. You could get a drink of water from the outside of that refrigerator. It was the best thing we had ever experienced!
The four kids in our neighborhood played on the Sickles’ porch all summer long. And of course, we got thirsty a lot! Mrs. Sickles welcomed us to have all the drinks we wanted, but she had one rule. Don’t bang the screen door as we came in and out. [As Mrs. Sickles demonstrated, we are taught] that we are to show compassionate hospitality to one another… [and it is] to be extended out into the world as well. In the longstanding Judeo-Christian tradition, hospitality is to be offered in ever widening circles until it reaches strangers as well as companions and loved ones…Disciples and strangers alike are to be treated with the compassionate hospitality that represents God’s own welcome to each and every person.
What does it mean in our world today to offer a cup of cold water? How do we provide compassionate welcome to others?
In anticipation of preaching on this passage, I decided to pay attention and listen for examples of ways in our world that people offer a cup of cold water to others. I discovered far more examples than I could ever tell you about in the next few minutes. But I have two I’d like to share with you, hoping that these stories will prompt you to think about how you can share compassionate hospitality with others.
In an article written for The New Yorker, Margaret Talbot tells what happened when two parents overdosed on heroine at their daughter’s middle school soft ball practice. It was the first evening of practice in a very small town near Martinsburg, West Virginia. Many parents had gathered in the stands to watch their daughters practice. Paramedics were called when two parents were lying on the ground, unconscious, several yards apart. The scene turned chaotic very quickly. The couple’s daughter was behind the chain-link fence being comforted by her friends. Their younger children were running between the parents, crying and screaming, “Wake up, wake up!” When the paramedics began to administer Narcan, a drug designed to save lives during an overdose, some of the parents said, “Why are doing that? Just let them lay there.”
Talbot’s article entitled, “The Addicts Next Door,” emphasizes that the drug epidemic is found in all types of neighborhoods. People respond to this crisis in different ways. Some are uncaring and judgmental. Others strive learn more about the people and the addiction and work to provide the help that is needed to turn lives around.
Narcan can be the 2017 version of a cup of cold water. Making sure that treatment facilities are available and affordable in all communities is another version of a cup of cold water.
A second story I’d like to share with you appeared on the NBC Nightly News last Wednesday evening. It is the story of an eleven-year-old boy named Bishop Curry. Some time ago, Bishop’s young neighbor died when a parent accidentally left her in a hot car. Bishop met his neighbors and understood their grief and their hope that this would never happen to any other children. So, Bishop, whose father works for Toyota, went to work on a design for a device that could be installed on a car seat. It has a sensor connected to a phone app that will let the parents know that the child has been left behind and it blows cold air on the child until they are rescued. Bishop and his family are currently working on a patent for this devise. I encourage you to look up Bishop Curry on the internet and watch his story. Bishop saw a need. He is working to bring a cup of cold water that will save the lives of young children.
A cup of cold water can be a powerful thing…Our calling is to provide compassion and hospitality for others…[to] meet our neighbors where they are rather than waiting for them to come around to being just like us. [This]…kind of hospitality isn’t sitting at home….or church…or civic organizations waiting for others to “show up.” No, it means going outside of our comfort zones and learning to appreciate others for who they are. Compassionate hospitality means seeing other people through God’s eyes.
I leave you today with a challenge for this week: Look and listen for concrete examples of people offering hospitality and a cup of cold water to others. And I urge you to offer God’s grace when you see your neighbor in need. Amen.”