Hospitality and Belonging

This week in Spiritual Practices class we talked about how the Unitarian Universalist faith is a covenantal faith. We are a community that welcomes the strangers because we were all once the stranger.

I grew up Lutheran, for the most part, until I was 15 or so. I don’t remember hearing much about this topic growing up in that church. I do remember experiencing hospitality as a child, though, in the form of many, many people visiting our house over the years, mainly professors and grad students. My parents loved having people over. My dad’s parents were known for their parties and my mother was known for hers. As a child and teen, we were always having people over. As an adult, I’ve struggled a little with this one. When the children were little, my house was always too much of a wreck, though I did host other mom’s weekly for playgroups. My husband is an extrovert and would have had people over every weekend for games and fellowship. With his church, though, it was hard to get people to drive all the way out here (his church is a 40 minute drive from us and his church area expands an hour and a half around outward from the church). Now that the kids are older, we’ve hosted monthly gaming afternoons a have a few other big parties a year.

So what are the qualities of hospitality? At first we think of food, greeting and welcoming people, and listening to others. Hospitality involves an opening of the heart, as well. It’s about cultivating the desire to welcome people and invite them into our lives, a willingness to accept change and accommodate for others.

It’s not one-sided, though, it’s also about letting your community know that you have a need that should be filled. This side of things, I know I am not good at. I never really saw my parents ask for help from others when I was growing up. Helping others, volunteering for others? Yes. Getting help? Not so much. When we moved from Nebraska to Pennsylvania and then on to Texas, we didn’t have people over to help pack. We didn’t ask people to help put furniture on the trucks. As an adult, I still don’t know how to ask others for help when I really need it.

Hospitality is also a social skill. You need to have the ability to know when to reach out and when to leave people to their privacy. Another tough one for me. I watched my mother ask many intrusive questions over the years and I was always so embarrassed. I tend not to be a reacher-outer. I don’t like to bother people. I never thought of this as being the other side of the hospitality coin.

Some questions for reflection:

  1. When have you felt truly welcomed?
  2. When have you felt truly included?
  3. When have you been blessed by hospitality?

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