“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers . . .” Hebrews 13:2
When I was a child, I was told not to talk to strangers. As a mother, I cautioned my children in a similar manner. From my childhood perspective, a stranger was “someone I didn’t know.” As an adult, I expanded upon the earlier definition, coupling it with discussions of discernment and instinct. In retrospect, I see the judicious advice was evidently flawed. Why? Let me explain.
I frequently use hand stitching in my creative endeavors. I enjoy the process. For me, it often serves as a meditative practice, which leaves mental space for broad reflection. One day, I found myself considering the individuals that have impacted my life-- from my dearest friends and family members to the unknown individuals that produce the food I eat and the products I purchase. Such a human landscape is vast, and in its viewing, I realized that everyone I had encountered since birth, no matter how significant the role they played in my life, began as a stranger. Apparently, I had disregarded the childhood warning more often than not, ascribing instead to other advice related to the “entertaining of strangers.” Not the winged creatures referred to in biblical verse or represented in the photographic images I utilize in my work, but simple souls that intersected my life at one time or another.
To “entertain” can mean to accommodate or consider. While I’ve not always been the most willing and gracious of hosts, I’m appreciative for the times I’ve left space in my life to accommodate relationships or consider the thoughts and positions of others. Much of my work has developed from such entertaining.
The world we live in today has expanded our interactions with strangers as never before. In many instances, I have found myself assisted by others known only via emails or texts, sometimes utilizing a username or pseudonym as their lone identification. On other occasions, I have found myself comforted, although unwittingly, by the work of online authors or supported by art patrons who remained anonymous. This personal distancing has not diminished my gratitude. It may have even expanded it.
Within my limited knowledge, I cannot discount nor verify the existence of heavenly creatures that may have assisted and guided my journey; so instead, I am thankful for those earth-bound beings that have crossed my path. They have seemed angels in their own right as they have challenged and comforted; defended and detracted; dared and delighted; instructed and guided; loved and healed; and trusted and forgave. They were, at one time, mysterious strangers all.