We often miss the power and lasting value of an act of kindness. Extending ourselves in hospitality can open up new avenues of connection. Ones that, sometimes, can last a lifetime.
For those who come to the U.S. and are strangers in a strange land, the simple act of reaching out and welcoming them into your home for a meal communicates volumes. Hospitality is a perfectible art, really.
You see, we humans have a problem with sticking with our own kind. We view the world through our own two eyes and a mind that sees it only as we do. No matter how “open” we intend to be, we seek to connect with people who are most like ourselves.
Look around. You will see that, on the whole, this is true.
Why is this?
Well, there is safety in what we know and can predict. People who are like ourselves do not require so much of us. We can often intuit how they are thinking, what they need. And this gives us a sense of control. We usually like that.
When we are thrust into situations with others who are very different from us – on any number of levels – we often feel uncomfortable, unsure. And definitely out of control.
This is human nature. It is not wrong. But it is not the best, for our growth. And for our world.
When people come to our country from far away, they come with a host of expectations, preconceptions and stereotypes. And fears.
It is not easy being a stranger in a strange land. If you have never tried it and are 70 or under with a healthy body, you should, no matter what your wallet says. You will be changed and you will forever have a heart that views the “foreigner” with new eyes.
But Let’s Step Back a Bit
Let’s say you have never had a person who has a different native language from your own as a guest in your home. Where do you start? And even, how do you find them?
Well, I’d suggest, start with what you do know.
Here’s a challenge for you: Make it a point to practice hospitality – actually inviting someone outside of your family – into your home and life once a week for the next three months. Set a day and make that your day or evening to do this. And stick with it.
If you feel uncomfortable about your home – too small, bad area, too messy, can’t cook, etc. – then practice that hospitality through activity. Eating out (even on the cheap), meeting over a cup of coffee or tea, going on a walk or hike, walking through a mall can all be times to connect and will often accomplish the same thing. You are pouring into relationship, and that is key!
Who do you invite?
Start with those you do know. Yes, friends are fine to start. But try for a friend you haven’t connected with for awhile. And then push outward. Maybe somebody who is on the periphery of your friendship “circle.” Or a single you know of who would appreciate a good home-cooked meal. Or a local college student in your church.
Of course, it’s okay if these first guests are like you. The point is to develop a habit of hospitality that pushes you beyond yourself. Be intentional in reaching outward. There needs to be so much more of that in our world.
Make this a measured act. Not something that is added stress in your life. But rather, something that becomes a beautiful addition to who you are. You will be investing in people – and in yourself. The dividends of hospitality are priceless – and often eternal.
And then, as time moves on, look for people that are not like you. International students are a great choice. They are often accessible and hungry for such experiences. A sad fact is that still, as many as 80% of all international college and university students never make it into an American home.
Not long ago, I reached out to a new Korean couple living in our area. They are both diplomats. They'll have their first baby in a few months. Neither had ever stepped into an American home. No one had reached out to them. But then they received our call.
"We don't know how to thank you enough. Tonight I am going to bed with a full heart because of your unexpected call and kindness," the husband texted to me.
Close your eyes. You are visiting or living in another country – think any country you want – and you have the opportunity to be welcomed into a real home. Do you think that'll impact your understanding of that people, culture and nation?
Indeed, so many cultures of our world have refined the art of hospitality. We can learn from them and improve our hospitality skills.
But the main point here is you can step out and challenge yourself in this act of peacemaking. Set a small goal, and then push forward. You will be amazed at the heart change this can bring to you as well as to the ones on the receiving end of your acts of hospitality!
Who can you invite this week to extend your heart of hospitality? Get it on your calendar! Act, and see how it makes a difference.