The Power of Hospitality
20th October 2022
‘Hospitality is when someone is at home in your presence.’
HOM: Thinking about your thinking – feelings, actions and your effects on others.
I have a great affection for the Girlguiding movement and indeed the Scouting Movement. I remember with great fondness being both a Brownie and then a Guide, and my sons were Beavers, Cubs and then Scouts. It was through these organisations that they and I experienced camping for the first time without parents, had opportunities to make new friends, be creative, learn new skills and discover new hobbies. And then there were the ‘interest badges’ which you could choose to work towards. These included the writer’s badge, first aid badge, the animal lovers’ badge and the hostess badge …well this was the 1960s! I know for a fact that this is no longer on the list for the 2020s and never was an option as a badge for the cubs and Scouts. Working for the Hostess badge included baking and setting out a tea (I think it has now morphed more into ‘events management), but the purpose of all the tea making etc was to learn how to show hospitality…to make people feel welcomed, valued and included, whoever they were. It was about making people feel comfortable and accepted and at home in our presence.
Hospitality is one of the great Biblical virtues. In his powerful book ‘The Dignity of Difference’, the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks drawing from the Story of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18) who welcome the strangers in their midst and offer them food, writes about the importance of accepting others and welcoming even those to whom we would not always feel much in common This is a generous sort of hospitality which extends our goodwill beyond blood families and good friends and enlarges our sphere of concern to those who do not belong to it. Again in the Old Testament it says:
“You shall treat the stranger who stays with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you too were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34 ESV)
This is again restated by Jesus in his teachings, most memorably through his parable of the Good Samaritan. People are encouraged to reach out and show hospitality to all in need. There are to be no boundaries of race, religion or gender in displaying hospitality. And of course it’s both natural and easy to show hospitality to those we know and love, and that’s why teaching the importance of hospitality that reaches beyond family and friends is so important.
In a very real and practical sense the power of hospitality has recently been witnessed amongst those who have opened their homes to refugees from Ukraine. It has been truly inspiring to see how many ordinary people responded to the call for help. And the power of hospitality is something we can exercise on a daily basis through the way we interact with those with whom we live and work. A friendly smile and a welcoming countenance can go a long way in making someone feel affirmed, welcomed and more ‘at home’.