I pulled some books off the shelf to do a little investigating. Webster defines hospitality this way:
"given to generous and cordial reception of guests"/"offering a pleasant or sustaining environment"/"readily receptive."
While perusing the dictionary, I also noticed the words HOSPITAL and HOSPICE. Isn't it interesting that these words are derived from the same root word as HOSPITALITY. Hospital and hospice both speak to me of care and comfort.
Searching a bit further, I found that the Greek word philoxenia is often translated hospitality. Philos means to love as friends, hence Philadelphia---the city of brotherly love. No doubt, love is a key component if we are to give hospitality. I'm beginning to get the picture.
Joan Chittester says that hospitality is "an act of a recklessly generous heart." Isn't that a great way to put it?
Henri Nouwen believes that listening is "one of the highest forms of hospitality." I had never thought about it that way.
After mulling over these thoughts and definitions, I am led to conclude that we must first have a hospitable heart before we can extend hospitality to others. This requires intentionality on our part. We invite people into our home and into our lives so we can provide a comfortable, caring environment where our guest then feels safe in allowing us to enter into his or her life. Yes, this is what I want to give my guests! I want to create a home in which family, friends, and neighbors are welcomed and valued.
But what stands in the way of hospitality? Sometimes we think we are too busy. Many think their homes are not clean enough or decorated well enough. Do we wait to achieve domestic perfection before we welcome another into our homes? If we wait for our homes to be immaculate, then we will miss the joy of sharing our lives with others. So don't wait for perfect!
I'm convinced that if we first open our hearts and then open our doors with a smile, our guests will surely feel welcomed and comfortable. Add to that a listening ear over a cup of coffee or simple meal and someone will leave feeling blessed---I'm quite sure of it!
"Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes." Luke 8:18 The Message
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Note: If anyone feels like it, I would like to know more about the places where you have experienced hospitality.