TITLE: The Stranger
By dee smith
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A strange man walked into our town; strange as in odd or unusual. He was medium height, medium weight and in his thirties. He was dressed in humble, clean clothes. Definitely not a fashionista! Our town was a very fashionable town. However, the thing that really made him stand out was all the packages he was carrying. It was like he was Santa on Christmas Eve. But all the packages were wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with string. He just looked like he was poor. He didn’t really belong in our town and everyone was wondering who he was visiting.
The man walked to the park and sat on a bench. He just sat there with all his packages around his feet and on the bench. The children just stared. No one spoke to him and he didn’t speak to anyone. For about an hour he just sat there staring off into the distance. Not moving, not talking, not really watching—just staring into space.
After an hour, the man got up and walked away without a word. People then speculated on who he was and what he was doing in their town. They tried to watch and see where he went, but he had slipped away. The children returned to their play and the parent settled down into their afternoon routine. Things were back to normal as they should be.
The man walked to a modest motel and checked in. He sat in his room and pulled out a sandwich he had been carrying. As he ate, he was thinking about to whom he would give the gifts. They were getting heavy and he wanted to complete his mission and go home. He thought about this strange town. Everyone seemed the same. They weren’t very friendly, but he hadn’t been either. He would try again tomorrow.
The next day happened to be Sunday. The man had passed a large church on the way into town and decided to visit there. Perhaps they would receive the gifts he had to offer. He got dressed rather quickly as he was excited at the thought of giving away so many gifts. He had so much to offer, even if he didn’t look like it.
The church began to fill up. So many people all dressed up. Everyone looked so fantastic; all the latest fashions which fit so well. Tailors in this town were certainly never out of work! The service began with beautiful music. The man closed his eyes and remembered all the songs. A tear escaped and rolled down his cheek. His mission had been long and rather difficult. You’d think people would love to receive free gifts, but that was not true. Instead, he was treated with suspicion and distrust. Why would he, a stranger, give them anything worth having for free? There had to be a catch somewhere.
The pastor got up and delivered an eloquent sermon. He preached from Psalms. The words resonated from the rafters as the silent parishioner listened. His baritone voice rang loud and true. He ended the service with a benediction. Just as the people were rising to leave, the man stood up and asked if he could make an announcement. This was an unusual request, but the Pastor, after eying him for a moment, decided he was pretty harmless and agreed to allow the man to speak.
He slowly walked up the aisle, carrying his packages. All eyes were on him. He turned around, smiled and said “I have come to your town to deliver these gifts. They are free to anyone who wants one. I guarantee they will meet your deepest needs. Surely, there is one person who would like this free gift”.
“No thank you, now if you don’t mind we have meals to prepare and things to do.” The Pastor headed towards the door.
The man called after him, “I will be here if anyone changes their mind”. Some of the children started to come up to get a gift, but were quickly pulled back by their parents.
The man waited until the church was empty and then went back to the park. He sat on the same bench as yesterday and again just sat there staring off into space. Actually, he was listening. He wanted to make sure he was in the right town and that there wasn’t a change in the mission. Surely, he had misunderstood something. No one wanted the gifts he had to offer. He looked around and saw so much hurt beneath the smiles. People put on such a front.
No one was willing to admit there was anything wrong. Why that would be so disastrous—did it really matter what would others think? No, push down those hurt feelings, put on a smile or go home and hide. It’s not hard to pretend if you try. Just remember, others are watching you. Conformity is very important. Be like everyone else. We all get along just fine.
The man wondered why people were so afraid to be themselves. Why did they feel so desperate to fit in? Who was the leader they were trying to emulate? He didn’t really know and doubted if they did.
This time the man sat on the bench all afternoon and into the evening. When the night air got cold, he realized what time it was and headed back to his room. He was still thinking as he approached the door. By the entrance of the motel were a young mother and her two children. They looked cold and hungry. She was trying to rent a room for the night so they could be warm. The man took out the money and paid for her to have a room. He then invited all of them to have dinner with him. They all walked into the diner across the street. The children couldn’t help eyeing the packages. When their curiosity could no longer be contained, they asked him about the packages.
“Who are all the presents for?”
“They are for anyone who wants one”.
“Does that mean I can have one?”
“Yes. Which one would you like?”
The little boy looked at his mother who was horrified. She apologized for her son’s rudeness.
“No, it is truly okay. I am looking for people who will receive what I have to offer. Your son is very brave and smart. Most people take one look at me and judge the gifts I have to be worthless. However, I offer the best gifts. These gifts will meet your deepest needs and then provide a lifetime of blessing.”
“No gift can do that! I wish there were gifts like that. We could really use some help and encouragement and maybe even a little hope.”
“That’s what is in the packages. Hope. Not just for a bright future, but for right now in this moment in every situation, every area of your life.”
“How could you possibly know all those needs? Only God could meet those needs and He seems to have forgotten us.”
“Not really. I am here now. Would you like one of my packages?”
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