Tonight at Evening Prayer we were talking about strangers. In the middle of listening to the story of Abraham and Sarah greeting a stranger and the story of the men on the road to Emmaus coming upon a stranger, one thing came to mind.
The orange chair.
In our little five-room house on Boy Scout Road that we lived in from when I was not quite three until I was nine (when we had six people living there and my parents decided enough was enough), we had an orange chair.
Perhaps I should explain this was back in the 70’s.
Orange was the old black back then.
It sat by the door to the little hall in the center of the house. The one where the space heater sat. The chair was upholstered in a lovely fabric. I’m sure it wasn’t silk but it had a neat feel to it. It was built all square and quite comfortable.
One rainy (Sunday?) night, we heard something outside. The edges of this memory are hazy, but I know I was very young. I remember the open door revealing a dark night, with the exception of the street light, and the rain pouring down. And the young man who was coming into our house.
We didn’t know him. Only that there’d been an accident. Right in front of our house. He had been riding his motorcycle and what with the rain, he’d laid it down right about the time a station wagon was coming from the other direction.
I don’t remember there being anyone there at that time besides him, and I don’t think it was a hit and run either. I guess the station wagon wasn’t involved in the accident, but it was a part of the story.
Mama led him to sit in the orange chair. He was pretty shaken up. And hurt. I remember a bustle of activity. Mama went to nursing school before she started college, so she knew the basic things to do for him. Or maybe that was just her Mama know-how kicking in. I think she or Daddy must have called for an ambulance because I vaguely remember others coming in, and I don’t remember Daddy leaving to drive him anywhere.
What I remember most is him sitting in the chair.
And I remember what I saw after he left.
Little drops of blood.
Over the years the chair had one or another “chair cover” thrown over it. I guess it was because of those little blood stains. Or because it was orange. Maybe a little bit of both. We had some fancy ones–ones with fringe and that foam backing so it didn’t slide.
(Respect the chair cover. Mama could redecorate anytime she wanted. Well, when there was one on sale. Not that she did. But she could have.)
Tonight when I remembered that chair, I realized that was the first time I remember seeing my parents help out someone they didn’t know. Giving. Caring.
But it wasn’t the last time. Not at all. And the lesson stuck.
When it comes to someone in need, there is no such thing as a stranger. When someone is hurt or lost or broken or hungry, you sit them down in an orange chair and you do what you can with what you have to change their circumstances. For the better.
And never mind how messy it gets. As Mama reminded me on many occasions, “They’re just things. Things can be replaced. People can’t.” And so she threw a chair cover over the orange chair and kept on–helping, caring, and making this world a better place. (And not just by hiding the orange.)
May we all have the opportunity and heart to welcome a stranger this week.
Love to all.