At Christmas Eve Mass, the priest asked us to recall a time when we had been the recipient of generous hospitality. He had been talking about the lack of hospitality Mary and Joseph experienced in Bethlehem, and then he shared a time he had experienced unexpected hospitality during a trip to Ireland.
The memory that came to mind was the time I had moved out of the l’Arche community feeling disillusioned and disappointed. My pride was wounded, and I was too distressed to make a decision about my next move. I felt let down and lost. After all, I had moved to l’Arche expecting to be there the rest of my life, and only a few months after arriving, I was leaving.
It took me a while to realize that my expectations had been way too high and to own why l’Arche did not work out for me. On the day I left the community, though, I was desolate.
Fortunately, the Sisters at the Benedictine Monastery invited me to stay with them for a week, which gave me a little breathing room.
A friend then invited me to stay at her house for as long as I needed. She would be away but her upstairs tenant (whom I knew) was looking after her house and there was plenty of room.
Unfortunately, the upstairs tenant did not share my friend’s generous spirit. She said I could stay for one night and then had to find someplace else. It wasn’t that there was no room, but rather that this woman was just inhospitable.
I felt so unwelcome that I did not even stay that one night.
Instead, I drove away discouraged and thinking that I would have to sleep in my car that night.
I had plans to meet a friend for coffee in the afternoon, and I was in tears by the time I got to the café.
Learning this latest development, my friend arranged for me to stay in her Mennonite community at the home of a young couple who had an extra bedroom. I moved in that evening.
I can still remember the couple opening their front door and inviting me inside. The welcome I received from this couple and the rest of the community was incredibly warm, and I immediately felt at home. The community shared everything they had; their attitude was that there is always room for one more.
It didn’t matter to them that I had no money or job, that I was spiritually and emotionally drained or that I had very little to contribute. They accepted me as I was and included me as a full-fledged member. They loved me back into wholeness, and I can still feel my heart swell with gratitude at their kindness toward me.
Their hospitality was what I wished for Mary and Joseph upon their arrival in Bethlehem.
I was grateful for the priest’s invitation to recall how blessed I was by generous hospitality.
What is your memory of hospitality?