Contrasting welcomes

by Pam Tinsley

About a dozen cars were parked near the dark church building as I arrived for an appointment on a rainy afternoon. From the main entrance I could see a woman talking to someone else in an open office across the lobby. Yet all of the doors were locked. I knocked on the window and then noticed a bell. I rang the bell and waited. I knocked on the door and waited. I rang the bell again, and finally the woman opened the door and barely acknowledged me as I followed her to the office. There she resumed her conversation with two others, one of whom was the administrative assistant. I felt completely invisible.

After several minutes, the administrative assistant finally looked up at me. I gave my name, the name of the person I had the appointment with, and that I was a few minutes early.  She hesitated in a way that suggested the person I had the appointment with might not be there, then said curtly, “Yes, you are. Have a seat out there, and I’ll let her know you are here.” I was directed to the dark lobby.

The day before, I had rushed out of the house wearing faded jeans and a rain jacket that had a tattered pocket lining. As I entered the business, I was greeted warmly by several clerks standing behind the counter and directed to an individual who could help me.

The contrast between these two experiences was a clear reminder to me, and I hope to all of us, that treating others with respect and dignity can begin with a simple “hello,” with hospitality that recognizes our shared humanity, whether in church, in business, or in life. It strikes me that this is a step toward living out my baptism in my daily life and toward ministering to others by seeking and serving Christ in all people.

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