Angels Unawares*

A stranger was kind to me a couple of days ago. I thought it might make a blog post, and I thought of the quote “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

I looked up that quote, to be able to attribute it correctly. I put “kindness quotes” in the search engine, and got a page of poster-like things containing various quotes written in cute scripts and fonts, all attractively portrayed. The quote I was searching for appeared several times. It’s by Tennessee Williams from the play A Streetcar Named Desire, spoken by the character Blanche DuBois. When I looked for the context of the comment, I decided it wasn’t what I was looking for.

I found this: “You cannot imagine the kindness I’ve received at the hands of perfect strangers.” Somerset Maugham. This quote is from the novel The Narrow Room, and I can only find the briefest blurb about it, so, with no real context, I’m not sure it’s what I’m wanting, either.

I kept on looking at the quotes, which seem to be basically screen shots of posters. I found a couple I liked:

“The unexpected kindness of strangers when you’re having a stressful day just makes everything easier.” Lacey Chabert (actress, voice actress)

“At this point, the only reliable resource is the kindness of friends and strangers.” Robert Hayes (actor in such productions as Airplane and Sharknado 2)

“If you rely on the kindness of strangers, be prepared one day to pay them back.” Linda Poindexter

I’m unfamiliar with Linda Poindexter, and when I searched for her, I found that there are several ladies who share that same name. I think she’s the one who was an Episcopal priest.

I also like this non-stranger-related quote from her:

“If one drop of rain can find its way to the ocean, then one prayer can find its way to God.” Linda Poindexter

But, on to the stranger issue. I’ve mentioned before about how I occasionally embarrass Jeremy in New York by trying to chat (in a friendly way) with people in the grocery store, the way I do in Waco, Texas. Earlier this week, I said, “Oh, excuse me” a couple of times, when I rounded a corner from one aisle to another, and came cart-to-cart with another shopper. We smiled at each other and went on. Someone barrelled out in front of me and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.” And we smiled at each other. We just interact more, and in friendly ways, here in the Lone Star State, even though we are pretty much strangers to each other.

Which brings me to the kind stranger I met earlier this week. I was heading into church Wednesday morning, to help clean out a supply room. The wind was howling and I was shivering as I walked across the parking lot. I did have on a dress and extra shirt, a sweater, and a jacket (all buttoned up to my chin). A few people were walking in, too–leaders for the community college-staffed English and GED classes that we provide space for, Monday-Thursday mornings.

My heavy knit jacket–
I replaced the buttons recently. The button holes had stretched a little bit, and the buttons kept popping out.

The back of my jacket–
This is how the tie belt was tied when I bought the jacket, and how it usually stays.

A woman was walking a few feet ahead of me, and as we walked into the building, we were commenting on the chilly, blustery day. There are two sets of doors at the entrance, and as I walked through the second one, I realized there was another lady behind me. “Oh, exucse me,” I said. “I didn’t see you there.” We smiled at each other and walked on in. A few feet further, there are a couple of steps up into the main hallway.

“Oh, wait! Wait!” She said. I stopped and turned around, but she went on toward my back. Her arms were full of her teaching supplies, but, one-handed, she untied the fabric belt at the back of my jacket. She reached around and pulled one end of the belt and the other around my waist.

“Tie it,” she said. And then smiled in satisfaction when I’d had it snugly around my waist. “It’s warmer now,” she said. And I said, “Thanks.”

She went happily along to her classroom, and for the rest of the day, I made sure my belt was tied when I was out in the wind.

Maybe in Brooklyn, or other places, someone might have said, “Mind your own business!” Maybe in Brooklyn, she’d never have been so bold. And while I was a little startled, I took it in what I’m imagining was a loving concern. A kindness from a stranger.


Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:2 (Christian Standard Bible)

One of the poster screen shots had the “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers” quote, but attributed it to W.E.B. Dubois. Hmmmm. No, I didn’t think so. I looked up Mr. Dubois and found several quotes (none, however, related to strangers). I liked these:

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” W.E.B. Dubois, PhD.

* The King James Version translation of Hebrews 13:2 says: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” When I was growing up, I always thought that “unawares” was a word that modified the noun “angels,” instead of the verb “entertained.” I didn’t really know what “angels unawares” were, but it sounded lovely.


2 Responses to “Angels Unawares*”

  1. Deedie

    I’m so glad to know where ‘depending upon the kindness of strangers’ came from! I agree, I’m pretty sure that it’s not the type of kindnesses that you or I would be thinking of!

  2. Gayle Lintz

    I was a little surprised, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie or a theater version of Streetcar Named Desire. It seemed like such a lovely sentiment, didn’t it.


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