There’s one more post next week on this, where I’ll try to offer a grid to pull things together. The final category that Debra Farrington teaches we should include in the Rule of Life is hospitality. It comes after prayer, service, self care and so on. Hospitality builds upon these previous traits, these earlier acts. Centering our efforts in these other places, as hospitable people, we show who we are and how we’ve become and how we are becoming.
When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother’s regular, unmentioned, almost unseen way of opening our home to several people when I was a child. I think of how our table on Sundays was the church’s table, our house turning inside out as people came and ate at her hand.
I think of Grammie and how she takes us in each winter for a week in the upstairs of her home, with a water pitcher on the nightstand, how she considers our time, how we make meals together, and how we have our long liberal conversations which cover beginning to end of the current things that matter.
I think of my sister friend, Maggie, and how she naturally exerts herself into the hearts of people by preparing meals, cooking simple and elaborate options, listening and making me listen, and talking about so many things I’d never notice.
I think of the earlier Bishop and Mrs. Trotter from my boyhood who granted me an essential hospitality, taking me into their home and allowing it to literally become my home. Each memory was somehow sweet behind those trees on Hopkins place and like these other powerful events have shaped me into someone attempting hospitality when people come around.
Hospitality is a peopled act. It’s not between me and God. It’s defined by the interaction between people. It doesn’t always involve food and housing, but hosting is that plain way we take or accept or invite or keep people in our presence. It’s about how well we notice and sustain contact between us and another.
I don’t do hospitality well when I’m tired because of my natural bent toward interiority. I know I need to retreat regularly in order to be like Mama or Maggie or Grammie or the Trotters of my childhood. What seemed easy for them is good work for me.
And that’s where the Rule comes in. The Rule of Life asks us to be intentional about those times when we’ll turn toward others, not for service, but for humanity. We need others. We don’t need to do things for others, but we do, simply, need people. Like food and water, our lives only make sense in relationship with others.
There is an essential rightness to friendship, a wrongness too when it’s real, but the rightness signals how we just require people. The same with marriage or long-term working relationship and so forth. We need those peopled affairs because those affairs compose or lives.
Where will you stretch in this area over the next months? Where will you extend yourself and thereby become your self? Where will you intentionally place people in your day or week so you can be hosted and so you can host?