The word for this week, and indeed as you know from my last blog, my word for the year is “hospitality.” I am reminded of the verse from Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” I certainly know that those who extend hospitality often function as angels in our lives. That unexpected offer of kindness, the stranger who goes out of their way to do something helpful, the connections that get made over a shared experience are such a gift.
I am currently benefiting from a fabulous gift of hospitality in Minneapolis. A couple of years ago friends introduced us to an organization called “The Affordable Travel Club” where people offer to host others, with accommodation and breakfast in their home. There are members all across the world. Paul and I joined in September and hosted our first guests in the fall; two really nice folks from Regina who were on a cross country trip. We happily welcomed them to our home, shared wine and conversation, gave them a place to sleep and breakfast each day. It was lovely. In conversation we found out that a few nights earlier they had stayed in Fredericton with the friends of ours who had introduced us to the club.
When I was making plans to come to Minneapolis and looking at the very high cost of staying in a hotel, I contacted folks in the club who lived not far from the conference site to see if I could stay. They graciously said yes, to having a guest for 4 nights. I arrived yesterday afternoon and was so warmly welcomed. Although there is no expectation of any meals except breakfast, my hosts insisted on sharing a simple supper of soup and salad, followed by a delicious cheesecake. I have been made most welcome.
In an age of fear and suspicion, it is nice to know that there are people who still function on assumptions of kindness and hospitality – for whom a stranger is just a friend you haven’t yet met. Sure it is a little scary to both welcome strangers into your home, or to be welcomed – but within minutes, the gift of hospitality can break down barriers and new relationships can be established.
I remember many years ago, before cell phones were even invented, Paul and I were on our way back from Winnipeg and the car broke down late at night outside of Thunder Bay. We were walking up to a house, in the dark of night to see if we could use a phone to call a cab to take us to a hotel for the night with plans to deal with the car in the morning. Before we got to the door, it opened - these folks had heard the loud sound the car made when it broke down. We explained our predicament and they insisted that we stay with them the night and they would help us get the car to the dealership in the morning. Grateful for their offer we did stay the night. In the morning they refused money and helped us on our way. It is a gift of hospitality I still remember with gratitude more than 30 years later.
Back to the present, as I was getting to know my hosts yesterday I discovered that the nice folks from Regina who stayed with us last fall, had also stayed with them earlier on their trip. It was another interesting connection.
My hosts looked up a few things that I might be interested in doing when I was in downtown St Paul and one of them was a free concert at the Landmark Center next to the Conference site.
I have just come from the most marvelous free concert – another lovely gift of hospitality and now I am enjoying the hospitality of the library as I wait to register for the conference.
Basic human hospitality helps make us and the world a much better place. I am looking forward to seeing the many wonderous ways I can both extend and receive hospitality this year.