By John Birkimer
Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (NRSV)
A pleasant woman’s voice on my phone: “Sir, I hope you haven’t started yet. We are short some staff and won’t be able to do any tours today.” Me: “Well, we’re already on our way so we’ll come on out and just look around.” We had driven to Kansas City the night before and were on our way to visit the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, north of Strong City. I had signed up for a bus tour but this message seemed to cancel that plan. My wife, Sharleen, had grown up on the prairie of North Dakota and had seen tall grass before; I had not but wanted to and wanted her to see this, one of the few remaining tracts of the original tall grass ecosystem that once covered so much of the Great Plains.
Upon arriving we entered the visitors’ center and were greeted by a youngish woman ranger. She asked if we were the Birkimers and when we agreed she said “We’ll be able to do a tour after all. I arranged with another worker to cover here for me so we can go in a little while.” We thanked her with great appreciation. A second couple shortly joined us and the five of us were soon riding across the prairie, listening to her story of the origins of the Preserve and watching small herds of bison in a distant field and cattle in another. When the bus stopped, the deep silence was broken only by the infrequent call of a bird. We left the Preserve after more thanks to this generous ranger. We had been strangers and she had welcomed us.
Lord, help us to always welcome the stranger, and to show gratitude when we as strangers are welcomed. Amen.