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The Heart of Hospitality

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This post, written by Roz Vincent-Haven, shares important insights about the nature of hospitality and the trust that hospitality can create between members of a community. This post was shared with us by New Story Group. Thanks Roz and NSG!

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

We hear a lot about hospitality today as we attempt to welcome refugees from Syria. But what are we actually being asked to practice and how might our practice reveal angels in our midst?

The notion of hospitality has its roots in antiquity. Many ancient cultures, including those of Greece, India, Judaism, and Pashtun required the practice of welcoming the stranger as a duty to their God or Gods. The genesis of the universal Golden Rule, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” began here. To be hospitable calls for profound respect to all visitors, regardless of their difference, and without any expectation of remuneration or favour. Wikipedia describes hospitality as “showing respect to one’s guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals.”

Perhaps the notion of treating “the other” as an equal, an honoured guest, is at the heart of hospitality. At a recent information session for those interested in sponsoring refugees, I was reminded that hospitality is not charity. A true welcome acknowledges that the guest has gifts and skills, rights and choices. Acts of service, no matter how well meaning, that flow from our own sense of superiority have no place in radical welcome. Only through offering respect, care, and deep listening can we open our hearts and homes to strangers among us. Only then can strangers become neighbours and neighbours become friends.

Community developer John McKnight suggests that hospitality is one of three major components that define an abundant community. He believes that hospitality both generates trust and produces trust. Through our welcome we gain vitality and learning. We need people from other lands or experiences to enrich us through hearing their stories, listening to their music, eating their food and getting a glimpse of their reality. Without their presence our very culture stagnates and declines.1

My first experience of hospitality came as a child. Near Christmas, my father welcomed a lonely newcomer from India, a chef who was selling vacuums, into our home. The man accepted an invitation to join us for Christmas dinner and later returned to delight us with a feast of taste and smells from his homeland. That chance encounter and radical welcome was the start of a long and lasting friendship for these two men and left a life-long impression on me. Perhaps, without knowing it, we actually entertained an angel.

 

Roz Vincent-Haven, New Story Group

1 McKnight, J. and Block, P: The Abundant Community, pg.79

June 22nd, 2016
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