“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  – Hebrews 13:2

One of our ways of life in the Lotus House is to practice hospitality.  We do this specifically with a focus on crossing the color line in our society, though our hospitality occurs in many different ways.  Hospitality is an important function of a community to maintain its own life and health.  Hospitality could better be termed  a ministry of inconvenience or interruption.    So often we view hospitality from our own salvific context, that we are somehow changing someone else for the better.  Hospitality is never convenient, it always comes as an interruption.  If we seek hospitality, it will never come at the time we want it to.  It will always interrupt and inconvenience us at the most inopportune times.  The the true gift of hospitality comes from the way it changes us, and helps us learn to see humanity beyond or busy selves.

I recently began reading a book (h/t to Alden) called Hope Sings So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line.  The author, Chris Pramuk, is a theologian at Xavier University who provides an insightful immersion into stories of others.  One of the insights that jumped out to me includes his reflection on the writings of black theologian Howard Thurman.  Where many have struggled to define a reconciliation that often leads to separation or assimilation, Thurman suggests that:

“Always he [man] must know that the contradictions of life are not final or ultimate; he must distinguish between failure and a many-sided awareness so that he will not mistake conformity for harmony, uniformity for synthesis. He will know that for all men to be alike is the death of life in man, and yet perceive harmony that transcends all diversities and in which diversity finds its richness and significance. “

“…community cannot feed for long on itself; it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them – unknown and undiscovered brothers.”

Perhaps the reason we have been called to hospitality is initially self-serving.  Hospitality forces us to encounter the other, to share stories and experiences of people who are vastly different from us.  We can only experience appreciation and true reconciliation when we embed ourselves in the stories and experiences of others.  If we rely on our native community or even fail to be a community that interacts with and welcomes strangers, our community will eventually starve itself out or destroy another community.  Hospitality pushes and challenges our boundaries.  As it serves to repair our own brokenness and selfishness, we will be able to, as Thomas Merton says, develop a love that “is a resetting of the Body of broken bones.”

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