5 ways to see Christ in a stranger

Jesus said, “What good is it to love your friend?  Even gangs members do that.”  Okay, He really said tax collectors… but I figured gang members would be a modern day equivalent of the cliché bad guy.

Jesus routinely calls us to do more than love our friends.  In Matthew 25 He tells us, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”  We have to go beyond our comfort zone.  We have to have charity that’s wider than our social circles.  It doesn’t do us any good to only love the people we know.

We also have to love the stranger.

And not just the well-to-do stranger who could turn into our benefactor, who can pay us back.  No, we’re called to have charity towards the least of these strangers.

We’re called to love the invisible person.

The person who means little to us.  The person we hardly even think of.  Whose existence we barely notice.

Instead of overlooking these individuals, we need to challenge ourselves to see Christ in them.  To serve them as we would serve Christ Himself.

Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.  Matt 25:40 Tweet this.

1. Greet your cashier by name.

When I was a high school math teacher, my biggest struggle was convincing students to do their homework.  They hated it.

My winning strategy?

Thank students by name for doing their homework.  The response was phenomenal.  My fellow teachers couldn’t believe my homework completion rates.

Personal connection goes a long way, it made them feel valued and appreciated.

I’ve carried this lesson with me ever since.

Grocery stores make it so easy – everyone wears name tags!  Greet your cashier by name.  Thank her for ringing you out.  Thank her for bagging your groceries.  Ask how she’s doing today.

Let her know she’s appreciated.

Don’t treat her like a check-out machine, because she’s not.  She’s a real living person who deserves respect.  Show her she’s valued, recognized, seen.


2. Bring your garbage man a drink.

This winter, I started sending Hero out early every Monday morning with a hot chocolate for our garbage man.  At first, he was surprised to see my 5 year old, waiting for him in the snow.

From my vantage point peeking past the window curtain, I saw his eyes light up as Hero passed off the hot drink.

He waved as Hero tromped back home.  And waved again as he disappeared through the front door.  And then again as all three kids pressed their noses to the window to watch him empty the dumpster, fogging up the pane with their warm breath.

That small gesture made his day.  His week.  It’s the highlight of his route.

We try to remember to bring him a steaming hot chocolate or an ice cold lemonade every garbage day, because we know how much it means to him.  He told me this morning, “Of all the people on my route, you guys really take care of me.  I love my job, and it’s people like you who make it all worth it.”

Honestly, I can’t imagine loving that stinky dirty job, and I want him to know how much I appreciate the fact that he takes care of it for us.

“Of all the people on my route, you guys really take are of me.  I love my job and it’s people like you who make it all worth it.”  Tweet this.

3. Get to know the cleaning lady.

When you’re done at the office, it’s her turn to come in and do all the unpleasant things.  Take out the trash, sweep the floors, scrub the toilets.

Do you know her name?  Her interests?  The ages of her kids?

The lady who tidied up my classroom was a lovely middle-aged Hispanic woman.  Despite her limited English and my limited Spanish, I discovered that she had a daughter my age in Peru, whom she was sending money home to.  I reminded her of her daughter, whom she rarely got to see.

We had very little understandable verbal communication, but there was an unspoken connection.

We left each other gifts and treats, shared smiles and waves, and brought a little extra joy into each other’s normal days.  Your coworkers may pass her by, but you don’t have to.

It takes just a few moments to get to know her.  To introduce yourself.  To leave her a note and a piece of chocolate.

Recognize the dignity of her hard work.

cleaning lady.png

4. Wave and smile at the construction flaggers.

They stand in the road all day long, turning the sign endlessly:




Hundreds of stony-faced people drive by them every day.  Break the habit of indifference.

As you inch slowly and cautiously by, catch their eyes.

Offer your biggest smile and most enthusiastic wave.  Shout “thanks!” if you’re window is open.  See the life return to their bored faces.  Brighten their day for just a moment.

5. Meet the soul behind the cardboard sign.

I know, you’re nervous.  I was too.

Especially when I had my kids in the car.  It’s just so hard to pull over, roll down your window, and make yourself vulnerable to the whims of a less-than-reputable looking stranger.

But one day, I felt God calling me to put the car in park.  Get out and walk up to the man.  Shake his hand, learn his name, and give him the spare cash I had in my wallet.

When he looked up from behind his “help a veteran” sign, and his eyes met mine, I saw Jesus there.

I asked him his name, and introduced myself.  I learned his story and prayed with him.  I realized I love this stranger as a brother in Christ and I want to help him meet his daily needs.

God called me to give from my excess to help him in his lack.  To get to know him, to write him a personal note, to bring him a cold water on a hot afternoon, to pray for him every day.  And what’s beautiful is, he’s praying for me to.

He’s not just another bum.

He’s my brother.

My friend.

I’m not saying you should be best buddies with every homeless guy, but if God’s calling you, open your heart.  You may need his humble prayers as much as he needs your spare ten dollars.

When he looked up from behind his sign, I saw Jesus there. He’s not just another bum.  He’s my brother. My friend. Tweet this.

Stranger no danger

We’re conditioned to stranger danger in our society.  This attitude often holds us apart from anyone we don’t know.  Stranger danger is seen as a virtue.

But charity is a virtue that trumps fear.

How is God calling you to stop and see the hidden Christ?  Open your heart to respond to the call.  To serve Him by serving the least of these.  To love them as you love Jesus Himself.  To practice true charity.

These people may not be in your social circles, but they’re an important part of your spiritual life.  They’re the embodiment of Christ in His need.  They’re an opportunity for you to do unto Him.  It’s time to stop overlooking their existence.

Reach out to Christ in a stranger today.

Great post!

5 ways to see christ in a stranger

11 thoughts on “5 ways to see Christ in a stranger

  1. I love this! Growing up my mom would always talk to everyone! She is a special person who sees Jesus in EVERYBODY! I try to be like her but sometimes I like my comfort zone so thank you for this great post and inspiration. Last week I brought out lemonade to the guys that were mowing my lawn while hubby was gone, they sure appreciated the little gesture and talked to the kids and I about our lawn 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! That’s an amazing thing to do, I bet it really made their day. I totally get what you’re saying about the comfort zone, it’s a big step to make. Your mom sounds like an inspirational woman, it’s great that you’re following her footsteps!


  2. This is beautiful. See Christ and be Christ. My mom taught me to do this. As kids we would bring popsicles to the construction workers near our home on hot days. She taught me to at least smile and say hi to the homeless. She always baked an extra dozen cookies for the janitor at the church. Thank you for the reminder … on her birthday!


  3. Great post! I had a couple thoughts. One was that I used to work as a barista at Starbucks, and your point about addressing our checkers by name rang very true — even if not using someone’s name specifically, at least acknowledging them as people. Because the training for Starbucks baristas involves this extensive practice at “connecting” with customers, and it was always a little insulting when we’d try so hard to do this connecting only to have the customer bark an order our way without so much as eye contact, let alone a smile. But then there were other customers that completely made my day by their friendly demeanor. … My other thought was on your point about homeless people. Now I myself am guilty of every kind of excuse not to interact when I see them, but one Lent my husband and I got the idea to do a little project of making care bags to hand out when we saw homeless people, and I think it actually made it easier for me to feel prepared and not able to fall back on the “I don’t know what they’ll use this money for” excuse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrienne, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. Those care bags are a great idea! And yeah, it’s so sad that some people can’t even interact with the person serving them… so sad. I definitely have to remind myself on bad days sometimes, that I still need to show respect and spread God’s love.


  4. This morning as I walked up to the front doors of our church, I saw a woman sitting on a bench beside the entry way. As I approached her, she told me she didn’t know what time Mass began, and she didn’t feel her clothing was appropriate to go inside the church. I told her that Mass began at 10:30 and that she was welcome to come inside. She explained that she didn’t have a watch, she felt ashamed of her clothing, and didn’t feel it was nice enough to come inside the church, but asked if she could have a vial with Holy water. She said that it was alright if not, and that she would leave in twenty minutes if I didn’t return by then. I explained that I was on my way to practice with the choir, but that I would come back out when I could. She told me that she has enjoyed sitting outside the church on other occasions, listening to the choir with her son. We exchanged names, and as she thanked me, it occurred to me that I had seen the face of Jesus.
    At choir practice, I saw our church secretary, Teresa, and told her about my encounter with the woman, Candice. Teresa hurried out to bring Holy water to Candice and to welcome her to our parish community.
    On returning home from Mass later today, I found this reflection on seeing Christ in my email messages. How timely.


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