The winter’s night was very cold and windy, and I huddled by the little stove in my camper reading the Bible by the light of a kerosene lamp. In the early years of Ananda our dwellings were simple—without electricity, running water, phones, or any way to communicate with others.

But we were more than happy to live in whatever was available—campers, teepees, old delivery trucks—just to be part of Ananda. Here we could dedicate our lives to God as well as help Swami Kriyananda fulfill Yoganandaji’s dream of world brotherhood colonies.

On this particular night as I was reading, I was startled to hear a loud pounding on the door. I cautiously opened it, and there on the cinder block step stood a strange man with a wild look in his eyes.

“I need to come in,” he said in a demanding voice. Offering silent prayers to God for protection, I stood aside and let him enter.

He sat down on one of the two benches at my little table. “I’m hungry. What do you have to eat?” he again demanded. (More silent prayers on my part.) I offered him some food which he ate voraciously.

“I’m thirsty. What can I drink?”(Still more silent prayers.) I placed some water before him, which he quickly gulped down.

Seeming to relax a bit he said, “I like it here. It’s nice and warm.” After a pause he added, “I have these big sores on my arms.” He rolled up one of his sleeves and showed me open, oozing sores on his arm.

(“Please God, resolve this quickly,” I fervently prayed.)

A few more moments passed. Then he suddenly stood up and said, “Thank you. I have to go now,” and quickly departed.

Totally baffled by what had just happened, I sat stunned for a few minutes. Then taking a few deep breaths, I continued reading the Bible. These were the first words that my eyes fell upon:

For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;

Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? . . .

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

“God,” I asked inwardly, “was it really You who came in the form of that desperate man?” I never saw the stranger again. To this day I’ve suspected that the encounter was God’s way of showing me that He Himself receives any act of kindness we express to others.

the message in a strange encounter

Now as we approach the Christmas season, it’s a good opportunity to introspect and cleanse our hearts of any negative emotions we may hold towards others. Throughout December, I’m taking up the personal challenge of holding only positive, loving thoughts towards everyone—be they wise or foolish; well-kempt or disheveled. Remember that love offered to any form of life is love offered to God.

In Whispers from Eternity, Master writes: “Let every feeling that I have glow with Thy love. Let every act of my will be impregnated with Thy divine vitality. Let every thought, every expression, every ambition be ornamented by Thee.”

I invite you to join me in this challenge for the rest of 2022: to feel God’s love flowing through you in each moment of the day. This is the greatest gift you can give to the world. And who knows? God may come in hidden form to receive it.

Your sister in God,

Nayaswami Devi