September 28     

Today's quotation:

Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.  Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.  It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Reaching Out

Today's Meditation:

Some of the most pleasant times in my life have come in the homes of people who have been truly hospitable.  I have spent time with many marvelous people who have been very generous and courteous, and who have made me feel right at home when I've been with them.  That's the kind of hospitality that I strive to practice myself, for when someone visits I hope that they're completely comfortable and not worried about doing something "wrong" in our home.

We stayed once with some friends of my wife who invited us to stay a couple of nights with them while we were traveling cross-country.  They were quite wealthy and had a huge house, and they were very nice people.  Unfortunately, though, we felt like strangers in their home every minute, and we were constantly worried about doing something we weren't supposed to do, about messing something up, about being in the wrong room at the wrong time, about eating something we weren't supposed to eat.  We were incredibly relieved to drive away from there.

If we want to be hospitable, we have to let others be themselves (within certain limits, of course) and feel that they're free to be themselves.  We give them their space and we respect it, and we let them know the limits of our space (I wouldn't want a guest going through the dresser drawers in our bedroom!).  One of the hardest parts of hospitality is giving our guests the opportunity to spend alone time, but it's not impossible, and it's something that's important to plan into any visit.

Being hospitable will look different for each of us, but the universal part of it is reflected in both Henri and Karen's words-- looking to meet the needs of our guests and helping them to relax and feel comfortable in our homes.  We should strive to ensure that people leave our homes glad that they came to visit us, and not glad that they're leaving.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the more common difficulties of being hospitable?

Why do so many people have problems being hospitable?

What does it mean to be more concerned about the needs of one's guest than about one's own needs?  Can we or should we do this always?

For further thought:

There is a huge difference between "entertaining" and offering hospitality.  Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and how you can impress others.  Offering hospitality puts the emphasis on others and strives to meet their physical and spiritual needs so that they feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home.

Karen Ehman

more thoughts and ideas on hospitality



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