This mark is pretty obvious in its meaning. Don’t just be hospitable to those you know, but be hospitable to all. Christ spent his time with all manner of people; he dined with those in positions of authority, as well as with the dishevelled and poor.
While showing hospitality is simple if it’s just friends and family, it isn’t anything special. Everyone shows hospitality to friends and family. It’s what we do with the new people who enter our lives that test our commitment to the call to hospitality. A call to be hospitable means growing relationships with those around you who you might otherwise not have in your circles.
I mulled long and hard over this post. What did I have to say on the concept of hospitality to the stranger? I don’t have people over often. After all, I live in an apartment that is 250 square feet. And I certainly don’t invite strangers in on a regular basis. Does that mean I fail at hospitality?
Yesterday I had coffee at my little Italian bakery and started chatting with an elderly gentleman I’d never met before. He told me the story of his life as I sipped my Americano from the next table. I listened intently. He seemed starved for someone to notice him, so I gave him that time. No one should have to sit with a coffee and a Danish, wondering if anyone cares.
That afternoon, I hosted a Good Friday lunch for some of my female friends, as well as a guest I’d never met. We had lots of food, good conversation, and played a game of Apples to Apples. My friend Pherdhoz came. She’d never experienced any form of Easter celebration. She came with an Easter Lily in hand as a hostess gift. While I was flattered by the plant, I hadn’t even thought that this might be her first Easter. I knew she was Muslim, but I also knew she was fairly liberal. The other ladies opened right up and we talked on all manner of things. At the end of the day, Pherdhoz gave me a big hug and gave me a sincere thank-you for inviting her. She’d met some lovely ladies, and it was great for her to experience some time away from her school work, as well as receiving an introduction to Easter beyond the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs.
That evening, I hopped on the bus with leftover food and headed over to my friend Cassandra’s apartment. She’d been intending to come to the Good Friday lunch, but couldn’t make it because of a recent back injury. I know Cassandra from my brief stint at another restaurant in town before coming to my current job. I had every intent of simply dropping off the food and heading out again, but rather wound up staying for a cup of tea and discussing life. I know how much I hate being stuck at home, and spending time with her is enjoyable, so why would I not?
This morning, I woke up with the sun. I just couldn’t sleep anymore. By noon my apartment was cleaned, my laundry was done, and I’d baked coconut cupcakes, and a small birthday cake. I packed up a set of four lovely iced cupcakes—coconut buttercream, and headed over to another friend’s place. He lives a lifestyle that is so drastically different from mine, that I’m actually nervous when introducing him to other friends I have. After all, the odds of them getting along aren’t terribly high. In fact, one of my friends who knows both of us expressed a large amount of surprise when she found out that he and I were friends. But there is something about having friends from different walks of life that means I treasure them greatly. They expand my view of the world, and challenge me in my beliefs and how I live my life. Regardless, I made the cupcakes, dropped in for a cup of tea, and proceeded to stay and chat for a couple hours. I know he’s lonely and without many good friends. And I truly love visiting with him. He was delighted with the cupcakes, and as we hugged goodbye and wished each other a Happy Easter, I was once again thankful for his friendship.
I don’t write these things to brag about how good I am. If you only knew how good I am not. However, as I reflected on what to write for this post, I came to a realization. Only three months ago my Muslim friend, non-Christian co-worker, and my pot-head friend all were strangers to me. Somehow, without being intentional about it, I extended invitations to each of them in the spirit of hospitality, and they all accepted.
These people weren’t just strangers in that I didn’t know them, but also in that we came from vastly different walks of life. Rather than worrying about how I would make these relationships work, I simply allowed them to grow. Now, I value all three of these people highly.
So the answer to my former question regarding hospitality and small spaces is this: I don’t fail at hospitality because I’m not having people over for coffee. Simply interacting with people and making myself available to them is hospitality in itself. Christ had no formal home, and yet he showed hospitality to all. If a homeless man can do that, then why can’t we?