We Were Strangers Once


We were all strangers once
new kids in new schools who
talked different than the others
wore hand`me`down clothes
shoes too big for our feet

We didn’t even have bikes
so walked to class every day
In our lunch boxes two slices
of bread with peanut butter
If we were lucky an apple

Dad gone Mom working
emptying hospital bed`pans
work no one else wanted to do
She did it with gentle cheer
to feed her six children

And the neighbors came
to the little house on Cahill
with welcome baskets of extra
garden goods dozens of eggs
Baker Bill brought bread

We were all strangers then
but the fabric of community
found a place for us & let us in
We graduated & the principal
pronounced our names right

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . .” ~ Jesus


About Peter Notehelfer

I'm a retired people person who now finds the time to watch the little details of the world without worrying about being watched by anyone . . . I live on an Island north of Seattle with my wife named Ellen, a yellow dog named McGee, a yellow cat named Gatzby, and four fine chickens . . . I read fiction, bake bread, smoke salmon, and fish whenever the weather allows . . . Oh, and yes, I try to write a poem every day simply to avoid senility!
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7 Responses to We Were Strangers Once

  1. an auspicious return – welcome back, my friend


  2. What a touching tale.


    • Thank you, LuAnne; it’s been awhile since I posted anything but felt moved by the sight of so many undocumented when I saw them working in the cherry orchards of eastern Washington this week. I fear we are losing our sense of compassion as a nation . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree, Peter. In fact the whole world seems to be moving in that direction. I always thought of the US as a beacon of humanitarianism, but not so much any more. I do think, though, that compassion can be just as contagious as hate. So you compassion can spread. We are not helpless. So glad to have you back!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The last detail of the principal pronouncing the names right speaks volumes on how we can be welcoming. It shows so much respect when you learn someone’s name, the way their mama used to say it, and not some nickname to make the interaction less awkward for you. Welcome back, Peter!


    • Thank you, Amaya, for hearing the yearning of the undocumented in our midst . . . Knowing and speaking our names is one of God’s great gifts to us. It is the gift we give each other as well . . . Blessings . . .


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