“Hospitality, rather than being something you achieve, is something you enter. It is an adventure that takes you where you never dreamed of going. It is not something you do, as much as it is someone you become…You make room for one person at a time, you give one chances at a time and each of these choices stretches your ability to receive others. This is how you grow more hospitable—by welcoming one person when the opportunity is given you.”
–Lonni Collins Pratt, Radical Hospitality
The Rule of Life are principals or values we try to live our lives by here. We usually take time during evening prayers to reflect on one rule a week. The rule we were reflecting on recently was hospitality – living one’s life in service of others, in a commitment to welcome guests in love and a spirit of prayer.
At the end of a rather sleepless week, I had a weekend full of cohosting three lively retreat groups here. A surprising thing happened every day as I was praying, conversing, washing dishes and making coffee…I was energized by it. This ability to receive and engage while I have been here has been rather unexpected. Hospitality is precisely what I thought that I would enjoy the least. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with one of the pastors here during my interview. I said “I think it will be hard for me to continuously engage with people/retreatants day after day. I am such an introvert I thought, “I don’t have a lot of energy for people, I am not sure where I will get the energy to do it.” I thought it would be hard and draining, that I would lose myself, my center. But in fact, it’s easy and energizing. I love welcoming people to this place, the peace and solitude it has to offer. It is a joy to serve them while they are here. More than any other thing in my life, my time here has taught me what it means to serve others, to be other focused. We gather 21 times a week, to pray for the city, to pray for individuals on our prayer list and retreat groups and then we intercede for those in our lives that need prayer. Ninety five percent of my prayer life has become other centric and most of my work life here is as well. I wash dishes, clean house and make coffee and tea for our retreatants, I answer their questions and try to make their time here as pleasant as possible. Surprisingly, it is my pleasure to do this. I want them to benefit from this place, to enjoy it and leave refreshed and renewed. When I am cleaning, I am thinking about the experience of those that will come after, I want it as clean as I would like it if I were on retreat. I am often tired, but having to serve others kicks me into another mode and I am able to continue to give, to serve, to smile and love with energy that is not my own. Sometimes, I do not want to clean or wash dishes, but knowing I am doing this for others makes it meaningful and worthwhile. I am able to do it with a sense of dedication and contentment. I get in the zone, the hospitality zone, where it’s not really about me, it’s about being welcoming, and it’s about being helpful pitching in and doing what needs to be done, about choosing to engage and being present to whomever and whatever is before me. I am not my own here, and that is difficult and tiring at times, but I like that my life and time is grounded in a mission and purpose larger than myself. I like belonging to a place, a group of people, to a rule and a way of being that at its heart is prayerful and welcoming. I get to say, “yes” a lot to the needs of others, I get to ask “how can I help you” and most of all I get to receive gratitude and to respond by saying “you are welcome.” Similarly, I want to be more hospitable to God, to say “yes” as often as I can, to ask “how can I serve you?” and to respond as often I as I can with “you are welcome.” I have read that hospitality is a practice that in doing you become, that it is about being open, entering into a moment with another and sharing. It is receiving others and giving them what you have to offer.
A women who was departing after a 24 hour women’s retreat, sang goodbye to us and thanked us profusely for the food and hospitality. She had such a good time that she said she planned to tell all of her friends about us. She left with a pep in her step. It made it all worth it! Being this hospitable and giving in this deep way also makes me extra cognizant of how I might care for myself and allow others to care for me. In that way, I am also more diligent about caring for my needs so that I am in a good mind, body and soul state to serve and open to receiving the hospitality of others.
On a vocational level, I have been asking myself how I might serve the city and am open to the ways that God may open doors for me to do so. I am helping to lead a transit initiative that will connect the region and people to jobs, resources and one another. That is one way. Another is by being a part of a Community Trust building Training, which trains local change agents in how to have honest conversation across division lines of race, class, gender and politics. I am excited to see what fruit, relationships and blessings are birthed out of those, both for me and the city.
On a locational level, I feel invited to receive all that Richmond has to offer by way of getting to know people from various backgrounds here as guests, but also reaching out to people that I want to get acquainted with in addition to taking advantage of the cities festivals, restaurants, parks and events. It’s been fun. I went on a walk around Bryant Park last week with a friend, started mentoring a teen from a local high school, stopped in and joined a drawing workshop at an art studio downtown.I am learning the blessedness of both giving and receiving. I am glad that God has invited me into so much in this season.
What do I mean “open to God”? I mean… a courageous and confident hospitality expressed in all directions…. I mean an openness which is in the deepest sense a creative and dynamic receptivity — the ability to receive, to accept, to become.
— Samuel H. Miller in Man the Believer