What does it mean to be hospitable?

I used to live and work in a Christian community, and the hospitality department was forever making beds, making cookies, making birthday cakes, making welcome cards, in order to make people feel welcome. I could never do that. I would put on even more weight than I have already! I am not creative when it comes to card making, and I struggle with putting duvet covers on duvets and folding fitted sheets carefully. If that is hospitality I don’t stand a chance.

However, those activities were only done in order to make people feel welcome. (But you can’t make anyone feel anything, I hear you cry). Perhaps not, but you can offer someone the opportunity to feel something, and trust that in their own time they will allow the meaning of your actions to filter past defences and weariness. One of my favourite quotes comes from Henri Nouwen:

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

I think counselling is like that. I think life is like that too. I hope that when others come into my home, whether for counselling, friendship, a meal, or just a cup of coffee, I don’t rush around trying uber hard to do things for them. I would like the space to be calming, welcoming, relaxed, inviting, so that we can meet at a deeper level than might appear. Whether we talk, or just sit together, I want to hear both what my friend is saying and not saying, and I want them to hear what I am saying, and what I am not saying. And whether I say it or not, I want my friend to feel that however they are today is ok, and won’t define them in my mind. It’s just how it is just now.

What an idealist I am! But if I can get half way to my goal then we are both more human as a result.

What about you? How has hospitality been shown to you? How do you show hospitality to others? And how are you more human as a result?