I have about 45 minutes before my train is going to leave from Union Station in Las Angeles and decide to get me a slice of pizza from the fast food bar. The tables are all taken so I ask a woman sitting alone if she would mind if I shared her table. The woman, who happens to be Afro-American, graciously makes room for me. A minute later, we are joined by a young white kid. There we are three strangers in the most casual of settings.
The young man and I start to wolf down our pizzas when the woman stops us. “Wait,” she admonishes us. Then, she spreads out a napkin in front of each of us, giving the illusion of place settings. Surprised, the kid and I watch this woman, a complete stranger, morphing herself into a charming hostess. She reaches out a hand to each of us, bows her head, and says, “Lord, we are blessed in this country of ours to have enough food to eat, we want you to know that we are grateful. Thank you, Lord. Amen.” She beams at us. “Now, we can DINE together as brothers and sister.”
We didn't have much time to engage in conversation but it didn't matter. The Afro-American woman had already communicated her values. Number one, she was colorblind. She saw us as brothers, not as strangers and had reached out to us with warmth and hospitality. In doing so she made the lonely setting of a train station a little less lonely. Her gesture of putting napkins in front of us and saying grace transformed a junk food meal into a kind of communion.
The experience at Union Station happened to me about six years ago now but it will always remain with me. Where in the world did this woman come from? There have been a number of books written about angels recently. I have tended to scoff at this stuff. But this woman was like an angel to me. Out of nowhere she entered my life and made me feel a connection with two human beings who would have remained complete strangers to me. Her actions spoke to me, louder than any preacher on Sunday morning, that saying a prayer of thanks, even for a dried out piece of pepperoni pizza at a railroad station, transforms the meal into a feast and makes us conscious that in God's eyes, there are no strangers.