Mirna and Microwave Popcorn
I’m on the road this weekend – doing work that I love. And then this happened.
My body was longing for a hot shower, crisp sheets, and an easy cell phone conversation with familiar voices.
My mind was telling me it was time to check in for my morning flight, to check the shuttle schedule, to recharge my iPad, to request a wake up call.
My brain was tired from helping a group of Christians reimagine and rediscover ancient and timeless commands about welcoming strangers and inviting them into our lives.
As I stumbled into your hotel, I could only imagine a short stopping place before I began the next leg of my journey.
Thank God for hotel sundry shops, microwave popcorn, and slow internet connections that make room for idle chit chat and life changing conversations.
As you swiped my card and waited, I read your name tag. Mirna. The name of a woman who once watched over my sons in a church nursery. Where was she from? Where did she go?
And I asked, “Mirna, where is home? Where are you from?”
You were so brave. Of course you are.
My hunger for microwave popcorn vanished. I wanted to take you to the hotel bar and buy you a glass of wine. Tell you to put your feet up. I’ll work your shift.
“Oh. My. How long have you been here?”
“Two and half years.”
And I think of all of the angry rhetoric and mean memes I have seen in the last two years. She heard this. She knows who we are.
“Are you OK? How has it been? Your family?”
You were so careful.
I understand why you would wonder if you dared to say another word.
You were brave. Of course you were.
“I am OK. The first year… it was hard. I left. Just me and my two daughters. My mother… my family… they are there. It is just me and my daughters. But my daughters are safe. I don’t know why there is killing for the sake of killing.”
I said some other stuff.
I told her I was sorry she had to flee, but that I was glad she and her daughters were safe.
I told her I didn’t understand. (truer words never spoken)
But mostly I was thinking, “Where in the hell did my words go? What do you know, preacher lady, about hospitality – and welcome – and the way of Jesus?”
You asked me if I preferred a particular floor of the hotel.
You told me not to worry. A shuttle would arrive for me with 5 minutes notice.
You gave me a key that promised me a safe night’s lodging, crisp white sheets, and all of the hot water a Georgia girl in Ohio could want.
And you wished me a good night.
You did all of that before I bothered to read your name on your nametag.
Before I ever invited me to tell me some of your story.
You just welcomed me.
A woman who looked completely different from you – that you would likely never see again.
You were kind.
Some might say it was your job.
You were just doing your job.
(A job an American might have, they might add.)
And at what point did I do my job?
The job my Jewish carpenter, exile, refugee, wandering Rabbi gave me?
Or maybe the better question is, at what point – or why – did I ever STOP doing the job my Jewish, exile, refugee, wandering Rabbi gave me?
Or maybe the even better question is, how in the world can I welcome you, Mirna – and your daughters, with the compassion and grace you welcomed me?
Tonight, I pray God disturbs my dreams and sends me home by another way.
And I pray God gives you and your girls safe sleep, real rest, warm welcome, and a people with whom you can hear and see and taste and touch all that brings comfort and home.