Now I live in "the city," which is notorious for its impersonality and loneliness. I would be lying if I said my life has not been touched by those, but the city has also offered me unsurpassed opportunities for hospitality.
First, there are the couchsurfers. This website has been a lot of fun for me and seems to fit well with my travel personality. This past summer I met two very interesting women this way. Stephanie came from Atlanta and just needed a bed for one night before her business trip to the city kicked in for housing. She was a great sport and hung with Sara, Jud and I as we ran around the city with some of Sara's friends who were in town for a few days. The next visitor was Chloe, a beautiful French woman traveling in the US after an extended stay in Canada. She slept on our couch for a week, visiting all over the city. She was neat, gracious and fun to be around. She accompanied Sara, Jud and me to Ravinia and came along to a concert in Millennium Park. Now that she is back in Paris she has invited me to stay on her couch any time I am in that city. Honestly, I can't wait to go back, so this offer makes me really happy!
I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything and I look forward to making more memories this way. As long as I live in Chicago, I don't think it should be too difficult.
But it is more than just hosting strangers. I've watched strangers become friends as we sit around the table eating, laughing and talking. The food is served, the beverages flowing freely and someone brings up the last election, the sermon from Sunday, a recently published novel or a new movie and we are off on the adventure of knowing each other. Hospitality makes all of this possible for even the most cash-strapped of my friends, for whom restaurants, coffee shops or pubs are often out of the question.
I recently read a blog post that lays out some essentials to successful hospitality. I encourage you to read the entire post, from The Purple Cellar, but if you can't, here are some highlights:
The four "rules" of hospitality:
1) Hospitality isn't based on having the "right" house.Followed by four "habits" that make hospitality happen:
2) Hospitality isn't always convenient.
3) Hospitality isn't always comfortable.
4) Hospitality is always about serving others.
1. Decide to get organized.
2. Alter your attitude about your home.
3. Get fixed with food.
4. Prioritize people.
This isn't exhaustive, and there is A LOT more on the blog post, but I would agree with all of these things. No one I have ever invited into my home, either in Berea or here in Chicago has ever said, "I wish your house was bigger." Or "Don't you think you should be more together before you had us over?" or anything even remotely close. If dinner wasn't perfect we laughed and ate extra dessert. If it was crowded people bumped knees with plates on their laps and talked to someone they hadn't had a chance to meet yet.
Right now I am working to have people in every week. I need to feed people, and I want to make the best use of the time and space God has blessed me with. I've had several of my co-workers over for dinner in the last few weeks, a marriage Bible study with about 20 people meets in my apartment on Sunday afternoons and I have had several dinner parties for various groups of friends in the last 3-4 months. It is great when people who know me, but not each other, sit around a table with some wine or coffee, "happy tummies" and the time to relax and talk. This is where life happens. It wouldn't happen if I didn't open my doors.
Sometimes the dishes don't get done right away. Sometimes my grocery bill almost makes me dizzy. Sometimes I am rushing to wipe down the bathroom 20 minutes before people arrive. But it is always worth it.
If you don't practice some form of hospitality, whether you are single, married or have a family, you need to start now. It is never too early or too late. There are lots of Bible verses and experiences that I could throw at you, but I don't have the time or the inclination. If you don't want to take my word for it, check out these two books: Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Burton Maines and Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch. Both are firmly grounded in the Bible and are practical as well as theoretical.
But I must bring this to a close so I can get things ready for Sara, my delightful, albeit stressed-out roommate who deserves my hospitality more than anyone else right now.
What do you think of all this?