Shipwreck - and the Kindness of Strangers
This week we met a Christian woman who, many years ago, had been shipwrecked and come very close to drowning. It was the first time we had met anyone who’d had an experience like that. She was going for a holiday weekend snorkelling off the coast of Kenya when their boat was hit by a large wave. It destroyed the fragile vessel they were travelling in. She and the skipper and six other passengers clung to a plank and floated for hours.
Long story short – though they were in shark-infested waters, the skipper swam several miles to the nearest reef and eventually managed to attract the attention of another fishing boat. Everyone was rescued after a very long night spent in the sea, and the young woman and her fellow-travellers were deposited on dry land - on Christmas morning. The skipper was a Muslim. The woman had been saved by the courage and kindness of strangers!
The day after this experience, we made our weekly visit to Helen’s seriously incapacitated aunt. Bed-bound and vulnerable, she is entirely dependent on us but especially on her carers. One of them is a kind of refugee herself. None of them is particularly well-paid. All of them go well beyond the call of duty. Of the main team, one is English, others come originally from Ghana, Mauritius, and Spain. Served by the kindness of strangers!
We heard this week of the death of a former neighbour. He was a gentle, generous, absolutely reliable man. He and his wife were very kind to us when we first moved in. From a taxi to the airport to homemade chutney and much in between. Nothing was too much trouble. The great kindness of strangers…become friends.
The big news story of the week here was the Windrush scandal. Some immigrants, mainly from the Caribbean, have been threatened with deportation from the UK, even though they had lived here for most of their long lives and were good citizens in every respect. Clumsy bureaucracy was the problem – with a touch of racial prejudice? The British government has now formally apologized and backtracked but not before causing real human distress. A moral shipwreck. Unkindness towards strangers.
So - it has been quite a week!
The Bible tells us to love strangers much more frequently than it tells us to love our neighbours. The wisdom of the Bible is that strangers usually come bearing gifts. We have seen plenty of evidence for that this week.