"Who was that quiet appearing girl that came into church quite late, last Sabbath?" I asked a friend of mine who was an active member in the church which I had recently joined.
"Did she wear a striped shawl and a dark dress?" inquired my friend. "If so, it was Annie Linton, a girl who is a seamstress in Mr. Brown's shop."
"I did not notice her clothes in particular," I answered, "but her face attracted me; I should know it among a thousand faces. How could you pass by a stranger so indifferently, Mrs. Greyson? I expected that you would ask her to remain at Sabbath school, and go into your Bible class, but you did not once look at her."
"I did not once think of it, and if I had, probably she would not have accepted the invitation, as she is a stranger in town, and undoubtedly will not remain here long," my friend replied quickly, by way of defense.
I said nothing more, for Mrs. G. was really an excellent Christian woman, with this one fault—carelessness—which sometimes caused her to make grave mistakes. But I could not help thinking about the stranger girl. Her large, dark eyes and finely formed face revealed more than ordinary intelligence, and in some way I gained the impression that, if not a Christian already, she desired to be. It seemed to me that she left the church very reluctantly, and was half waiting an invitation to the Bible class.
The next Sabbath she came again and occupied the same seat,—just in front of my own. She bowed her head very reverently during prayer, and once during the sermon I saw her lip quiver with emotion, and a tear came into her eye. The services closed, and the stranger lingered as before. My friend, good Mrs. G., again forgot to speak to the girl. She passed out of the church slowly, and did not come again.
I thought she must have left town, as I had not seen her for several days; but one Sabbath, as I attended another church, I saw her again. She seemed a little more at ease, I thought, and there was a quiet smile on her face. After the services were concluded, I saw many a pleasant smile given to the stranger girl, and I understood the secret of the changed look upon her face. I made some inquiries, and learned that she had joined this church, and was earnest and active in all its work. I also learned that she had made a profession of faith just before coming to our village, and had an unusually happy experience. How much the indifference of our own people had to do with her finding a home in another church, I know not.
Several years have passed since this occurred, but I have never forgotten it. Many a stranger's hand I have clasped, as I thought of Anna Linton's sweet face. I was young in Christian experience then, and that lesson was a profitable one to me. Speak to the stranger, Christian friend, with the assurance that God will bless your efforts to throw sunshine and cheer and welcome into the hearts of others—strangers though they be.
Once again, this is a story that has made me think. How do I act towards strangers – especially those visiting my church? Do I put myself in their place and sense that they are lonely and need a word or two? Or do I selfishly ignore them and visit with my little group of friends? What would Christ do? We never know how a few cheerful words might help someone!