Greeting the Stranger

Yesterday I attended a helpful community workshop on immigration and tonight the congregation participated in the wonderful interfaith “Celebrations of Peace” at Lake Eola (Orlando’s downtown).   On this eve of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, I am thinking about hospitality  and reminded of a snippet from a sermon on the topic a couple weeks back.  The full text and audio is on the 1U sermon archive (2011-08-28).  Here is the snippet:

One of the fascinating things about hospitality is that in its best form it is a two way street.  I became most acutely aware of this when, as a parent, I had to explain the rules to our daughters.

One day it was:  When you get to Lee’s house, remember to eat what you are given, say please and thank you, don’t take things that aren’t yours.  Remember, you’re the guest.  Be polite.

Several days later:  Now, when Alex is here, remember to ask what she would like to eat, use you’re your manner, share your toys.  Remember, she’s the guest so be polite.

My children never actually looked at me as said:  So wait a minute, just who is it that gets to be the boss?  The host or the guest?  Or is it just NOT ME?

No, my children learned, like most people do, through experience and gentle guidance that it is always a dance between the host and the guest.  Each has responsibilities.  Neither gets it all his or her own way.  At least not most of the time.  And when things get out of balance – that’s when things can get ugly.

As it happens, the word hospitality has the same root as the word hostile.  That root means stranger, it means both guest and host.  Properly it means, “someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality.”  (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000.  ENTRY: ghos-ti- )

The meeting of strangers.  Perhaps a host.  Perhaps a guest. A moment full of possibility.

What happens next depends on the condition of their hearts.  Will there be hospitality?  Will there be hostility?

The next time you meet a stranger, or the stranger in a loved one, or even in yourself… what will be the condition of your heart? … the next time you meet a stranger …

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One Response to Greeting the Stranger

  1. A very good piece of advice for those entering a new place of worship or those welcoming new visitors to a place of worship. Hey, it’s also a great bit of advice for those of us who are interacting as colleagues and peers who do know each other outside of immediate strangeness. :O)

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