I've wrestled with this idea, especially as I watch people my age get married, have kids, purchase their own home, host potluck dinners and Super Bowl parties. Isn't hospitality about inviting people into the space you've created as a family? That may be one expression, but it's not the only way.
Hospitality encompasses much more than the home - it begins in the heart. Is my heart open to others? Is it welcoming to the stranger? Am I open to feel compassion for those I may not yet know? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves, instead of how to set up our living room to impress or host the most guests.
Don't get me wrong - I love seeing beautiful photos of gatherings inside my friend's homes, yet I want to expand the narrative just a bit so that hospitality becomes something all of us can practice, not just our married friends.
Christine Pohl describes hospitality as the act of welcoming the stranger. It's about training our eyes to truly see people, especially those on the outside.
One of the most painful experiences for minority members, according to Elizabeth Conde-Frazier in her book A Many Colored Kingdom, is the feeling of invisibility. Being invisible is more than simply not being seen, it means not being listened to or comprehended. And when we are blind to the people around us that feel invisible, we succumb to a blindness that does not allow us to open our hearts to the strangers in our lives.
So, let me ask you. Is your heart open to really see?
The first step to practicing hospitality is to open ourselves up to others, even the ones we may not see on a regular basis. As a majority member, I can love my unseen brothers and sisters by making them visible through the power of invitation.
My challenge to you today is to identify and see the strangers in your life - they may live in your neighborhood or go to your church or school or visit the same fitness studio as you a couple nights a week. They may look like you or they might not. Think about who might be invisible to you. Look for who you would normally not invite in - to your life or your home - and make a conscious effort to reach out. It could be as simple as a conversation or an invitation to grab a cup of coffee together. Who knows - maybe it will actually progress toward your home.
Let's begin practicing hospitality from our hearts, opening them up to see and extend the invitation to both our friends and the strangers.