Hospitality…. A word that is often used, but rarely contemplated.
The word "hospitality" has been bumping around in my head for several months. I tried to write something on this subject several times, but the words did not come; they just weren't there.
It all started one Sunday, as I sat in a pew at the Basilica of St. Mary. Father Bauer was speaking. I always enjoy Father Bauer's homilies. They are short and sweet; just enough to give you comprehension, but lacking just enough to make you think; make you want more and seek clarification within yourself.
His words get stuck there, like a burr in your sock that keeps rubbing against your skin, irritating you until you do something about it.
Well, that's exactly what happened with this homily and the word "hospitality."
Searching for Meaning
I looked up the dictionary meaning; the root word and their meanings; I explored my thoughts, but there was nothing there to expand on.
And yet, still I heard the word echoing through my mind day after day, week after week.
Last week, I got the Basilica magazine, as I flipped through it, a word caught my attention…. Hospitality. There was an article on The Hospitality of St. Julian and a piece of art with that title that hangs in the room of the Basilica that welcomes those in great need each day, offering aid in many forms.
I took this as a sign that I was not to give up on this word and this piece I had tried to write.
I have the words now.
The article says, "Hospitality is defined as the reception and entertainment of strangers or guests without hope of reward."
We associate hospitality with free refreshments at a gathering, a service rendered for no fee, opening up our home to our guests for a dinner party or holiday perhaps. These are hospitable acts that is true, but I think it's more than that.
The 13th Midcentury meaning from Old French means a place for the needy, a charitable institution.
We can be needy in many ways; sometimes we need the basics for getting from day to day; nourishment and shelter; sometimes we are in need of being lifted up spiritually; sometimes we fall into a deep, dark hole and need help to climb back out.
Acts of Love
As I thought about this word, I recalled several acts of hospitality that has been bestowed upon me. Oddly enough, the first three that came to mind involve food. And yet, food or nourishment of the body and soul do have a lot to do with hospitality.
I remember several years ago, after my friend had read a post I wrote on feeling numb and sad and lost, she showed up at my door with a smile, a hug and big loaf of chocolate babka bread, it was the day before Christmas Eve and she had just arrived home from a trip; she had a jillion other things to do that day. She didn't say a word about the post or that she was worried about me, but I knew what she was doing. It warmed my heart and helped me start climbing out of that hole. That was hospitality.
That same year, right before Thanksgiving our adored Saint Bernard suddenly died, absolutely breaking our hearts. My friends started showing up with meals for our family, understanding how devastated we were to lose this member of our family. That was hospitality.
During a hard time, several years ago, I opened the door to find a big box with a ham and bacon and pancake mix and cheese and more that my dad had ordered from his favorite Vermont ham vendor. That food fed us for a while, nourishing our bodies and spirit. That was hospitality.
A friend who hears your worries, your pain, your needs in your voice, in your silence, in your outbursts and quietly, simply offers you aid in whatever form she or he can. That is hospitality.
A stranger who reaches out to help another who is in need; asking no questions and never thinking about what's in it for himself. That is hospitality.
At this time of year, the needs of others seems to be most apparent. Spirits and temperatures fall; needs rise, in all forms.
Often, I find myself pausing before I offer aid. Will the person be offended? Perhaps I don't understand the situation? Should I put myself out there and help this person? Sometimes I just step up and do what needs to be done; simply offer what I can. I should do that more often; we all should.
So, as you bustle about getting Thanksgiving dinner ready, greeting guests, going about with "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" on your lips, I hope the word "Hospitality" will echo through your mind, irritating your little gray cells until you stop to consider this apt holiday term.
May you have a most Happy Thanksgiving! Over and out….