By Barb Arland-Fye
Before dusk while walking along the Mississippi River in LeClaire, I saw two kayaks gliding downstream. One man in each kayak deftly touched the river’s glass-like surface with his oar in rhythmic fashion, moving almost effortlessly.
I longed to be in a kayak, too, paddling and taking in the sights and sounds of God’s creation on the river. I continued walking, and gave a thumb’s up to the kayakers even though they were too focused on paddling to notice.
On my way back, I saw the kayakers again, out of the water. Their kayaks rested on large stones along the shore and they were picking up their gear to leave. It seemed like an odd place to dock their kayaks — away from two marinas on either end of Canal Shore Drive. Curious, I approached the two who appeared to be in their 20s and asked them a really obvious question: “You were kayaking, weren’t you?” Yes, they said pleasantly.
Ben, who did most of the talking, said he and his friend had quit their jobs in Michigan to embark on a kayaking and hiking adventure. The kayak trip started near the Twin Cities in Minnesota and would conclude in Baton Rouge, La. There, friends would meet them. Then the next chapter of the adventure would begin: a hiking trip to Salt Lake City, Utah.
My new acquaintances had already spent 19 days on the river and were on a tight schedule. They planned to kayak to Bettendorf that night, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had temporarily closed Lock 14, south of LeClaire.
“Where are you staying?” I asked. They didn’t know; the hotel on Canal Shore Drive was not within their budget. They were going to look for less-expensive lodging in town. As a mom and a Catholic, I felt compelled to offer them a place to stay for the night but thought I should check with my husband Steve. I tried to reach him by phone, but our land line was out and his cell phone was off.
Ben gave me his cell phone number and I promised to call him as soon as I got home. Walking quickly toward home, 10 minutes away, I thought: “How is Steve going to react when I tell him I picked up two guys on the river and invited them to spend the night with us?” Still, I was pretty sure Steve would be willing to share our home.
Lost in thought, it took a minute before I realized a car was creeping alongside of me. I turned my head and saw Ben in the front passenger seat and my neighbor Colin in the driver’s seat. Ben’s friend sat behind Colin.
“Were you going to give these guys a place to stay, too?” Colin asked with big smile on his face. He had been down by the river checking on his boat and met the two kayakers after I had left them. Colin didn’t hesitate to invite them to spend the night at his house. “I figured they’d enjoy a nice hot shower,” Colin said. I thanked him profusely for taking these guys under his wing. Colin shook my hand and so did Ben, who thanked me, too!
Two passages from Scripture came to mind. The first is from Genesis, where Abraham welcomes three strangers into his tent with five-star hospitality. The second, from Hebrews, dovetails with the first: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it, some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13: 1-3).
Who knows if the kayakers were angels? God gave me an opportunity to put hospitality to the test.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at arland-fye@davenport