I’ve always respected Kate Adie and remember her when she was a war correspondent during the Balkan and Kosovo conflicts. In her autobiography she tells of an encounter with some village folk, standing in bombed and burned out village ruins. They were watching an iron plate laid over a small fire. Their eyes were riveted on the plate, on which sizzled a tiny heap of chopped up potato; then an egg was broken on to the feast. She was moved by the hunger and anticipation of the onlookers, clearly seeing their first meal in days. Then she writes, “The mixture was deftly divided in two by the woman, using a bit of cardboard, sliding the yellowy lumps on to it. With a gesture born of natural habit she turned and offered it to us. We were stunned with embarrassment that kindness to strangers extends this far.”
I’ve never forgotten that phrase, kindness to strangers. Hospitality is a deeply human, gently humane, and profoundly humanising gesture. The offer of welcome, the invitation to trust, the sharing of food, are each a recognition of the worth and gift that is the neighbour. The Good Samaritan parable is a story meant to transform the way we see and treat other people, especially the vulnerable stranger.