You Too Were Strangers In A Strange Land

2023년 10월 29일

You Too Were Strangers In A Strange Land

<  Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time >

 I was never an immigrant, much less a refugee. But I was once an alien, an outsider, in a strange land. The year was 1971. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and had been assigned to teach English in Korea. I didn’t know the language. I had no Korean friends. I wasn’t used to eating Korean food. I felt lost, vulnerable and alone. But my “Guiding Teacher” (지도 교수) saved me by recognizing my situation and helping me get through my first difficult months. He and I had been invited to a banquet. Most of the food looked delicious. Among the many dishes was a fried fish, head and all. A little girl sat across from me with her father. She asked him something, which of course I could not understand. Her father said, “Yes. Go ahead.” And with great delight she took her chopsticks and gouged out the fish’s eyes and popped them into her mouth. My guiding teacher must have seen the look on my face, because he leaned over and whispered to me, “Don’t worry. We don’t expect you to eat fish eyes.” I must have laughed out loud. But his humor and kindness removed the awkwardness of the situation. And while, over the years, I was able to learn some Korean and make friends and eat Korean food, to this day I have been unable to eat fish eyes.

In the first reading, Moses tells the people not to oppress the foreigner or alien in their midst but to treat them like a kinsman. Why? Because they too were once strangers in a strange land. Although I have never met a refugee, I have met many foreigners, visitors and tourists. My experience as a stranger in a foreign land taught me the importance of being kind, welcoming and helpful to the aliens among us. While we cannot fix the situation at our border or stop the flow of migrants and refugees, we can do our part to make their exile more bearable by making our country more hospitable. This isn’t just a good idea. It’s the commandment of the Lord. Think back on any help or kindness you’ve received from a stranger. Now show that same kindness to those you meet today