"The Spirit reveals itself to us in our relationship with our world and its inhabitants; it is the source of all that is holy, sacred, and true. The word spirit comes from the Latin word meaning 'breath'; the word holy derives from before the Christian era from words for whole as well as health, good luck, and happiness. The holy intimacy of strangers, then, is an experience of the Spirit's promise and power, breathed into human interaction and calling us into personal and spiritual wholeness — into the kind of harmony that yields health and happiness.

"The notion of intimacy with strangers poses an intriguing paradox: we encounter the familiar in the unfamiliar, the known in the unknown, the self in the other, and the other in the self. The word intimacy appeared in the seventeenth century in English, from Latin by way of sixteenth-century French, deriving from words for inner or inmost. Intimacy in relationship refers to the deepest, closest, and most profound associations. The word stranger, deriving from the Old French word estrange, evokes the opposite in its meaning, as it points to what is 'external, foreign, outside, or without.' To speak of intimacy with strangers is to experience a deep and profound closeness or innerness with what is most foreign or external to us.

"In Hebrew, the word for stranger is zar, which means 'border.' This meaning adds another dimension to our thinking about how we relate with strangers. An invitation into intimate connection with the stranger is a beckoning from across some of the boundaries, barriers, or estrangements that separate us.

"Crossing the boundary of our own consciousness into that of the stranger gives us a perspective we do not normally have. As we move through some of the barriers that divide us — our fears and our prejudices, mostly — we discover that the stranger is not so very strange at all."