Hospitality Challenge: Those Who Aren't Just Like You
“Can we ask them if they’d like to come over for dessert?”
Our kids were begging, for the umpteenth time about asking our neighbors over after dinner. When I say, “neighbors” I use the term loosely— I am referring to the couple that shared the wall between our two camping cabins. We were on a family vacation in Yosemite for several days, and they were camping for two nights for their anniversary— without children.
We had met them the night we arrived— they checked-in ahead of us at the office. They were a sweet, adventurous couple— up early for the longer hikes, and they didn’t seem to mind our rambunctious kids. While we wanted to respect their privacy and time together (as well as our own), our kids were incessant, so we asked them over for campfire apple crisp and ice cream, and spent an hour chatting with them while the kids roasted marshmallows. That was day two of our trip.
The following morning we noticed another red-headed girl running around. They are few in numbers, and hard to ignore, and my daughter was in heaven at finding another ginger in the campground. Eventually, her brothers and father sauntered over, and after a few minutes exchanging information we realized we had much in common, even if they were home vacationing from China, where they lived full-time.
The next evening their entire family came and sat by the fire to have smores and talk about the hiking that we had done that day. Both of our families were heading out in the morning, and we were sharing the highlight reels of the trip as well as background stories of life and family. The kids went off to play flashlight tag, and we sat for another hour talking about friendships, China, America, children, and Jesus. The next morning we packed up and drove home, and I mentioned to my husband that 50% of our evenings had been spent “hosting” other people at our campsite.
While that may be more customary in the camping world (“hey, can I borrow some…. fill-in-the-blank”) it’s not always the case when we return to our homes and cities, to our fenced in yards, and the convenience of zipping to the local store when we realize we have run out of ketchup, or ice. I find it interesting that we are more likely to ask a stranger camping next to us to share something, then we are to walk across the street to borrow some eggs or a cup of sugar.
So far this month we’ve addressed the excuses of time, space and money in regards to hospitality. We’ve talked about how people care more about feeling invited, included and welcomed then they do about the size or state of our home. They want to know the real versions of us, and that’s why they cross our threshold, not to be amazed at our culinary skills, or to see the latest piece of furniture that we DIY’d. We dove into the idea that being a good neighbor sometimes means that we act first and talk later and that there is no better time than the holiday season (which we are sprinting toward).
Our final challenge is a direct look at our heart because sometimes we segregate “hospitality” into a category best run by the party planning committee, not us— the extreme introvert. For some reading, the idea of opening your door to others causes the anxiety wheel to start spinning, and you’d rather cut off your right arm then have the Ned Flanders across the street sitting in your living room. And, I’d like to offer you some grace and say, “that’s ok.” We aren’t all created extroverts. Some of us prefer quiet spaces and require hours alone in our house to decompress after social gatherings at work. I know; I am one of those people.
Put too many events on the calendar in the week, and come the weekend I am closing all the blinds, locking the doors and declaring a “pajama day” for the family. The idea of slow mornings, and evenings at home on the couch, with just my husband and I, are the dream— unfortunately, we don’t live there; we live in reality.
So, if you are more like the 51% of my personality which prefers calm and quiet and alone time, please know that while God made you that way, He also designed us to be in relationship with others. It doesn’t have to be with a crowd of 100, or even twenty, but it should be a handful, and those people need to get close enough to know you well. When we hide out and close ourselves off from others, we tend to get weird. (That’s why having extroverted friends is helpful— because they pull us into events and gatherings and remind us of our need for connection. Thank you to all those Seven’s on the Enneagram!)
Today, as we wrap up our month talking about hospitality, I’d like to shift the challenge, from merely a physical perspective to one of the heart. While we could talk about how to practice hospitality even as we are the one being hosted, I am going to leave that for another time. (A couple of quick tips: don’t show up empty-handed, or late! Express gratitude for the effort someone else put into the meal or the time in their home, don’t over-stay, offer to clean up, treat their home better than you would your own, engage in meaningful conversation).
While most of the conversation has revolved around hosting people from our neighborhood, acquaintances from school, work or church, I want to broaden that idea with this question: “how often do you host people who aren’t like you?” If that thought makes you squirm in your seat, then start with something simple: if you’re married with children, how often do you have people of different ages and stages in your home? Are there singles, those without children, or the elderly at your kitchen table? Or do most of your guests looks just like you?
To take this challenge one step further, I want you to consider how to practice hospitality more deeply, beyond just bringing people of multiple generations in your home. Perhaps that looks like people from a different denomination, race, or political party, or for others, it means welcoming those from another economic class, religion, or sexual orientation. Consider what it means to practice hospitality with regards to those who are visiting your city, or country.
How well do we treat those who have transferred to your company, started studying at your school, or moved their family into your neighborhood from across the globe? Would they say that they’ve been welcomed warmly by you, your co-workers, and neighbors?
What are you doing with the people whom God has placed in your life? Whether you have four days at a campground or forty years in a neighborhood there are people who God wants you to show hospitality toward. The people on your street who just moved into the area, the woman in the grocery store looking for a specific spice, the Uber driver with the thick accent, and the student with the eclectic clothes and tattoos each have a need to feel seen, heard, and known. They long to feel welcomed and a part of something that is bigger than themselves. And that’s why God has given them— you.
As followers of Jesus, we know that showing hospitality is not a suggestion, but a command; it’s the way Jesus intends for us to live. What this means is that we will have to get out of our comfort zone, try new things, and summoning our inner extrovert, open our hearts and minds to embrace those who aren’t “just like us.”