Kindling the Fire of Hospitality Part 3: Welcome
Hospitality is a practice which envelops others in an atmosphere of warmth and welcome, and which creates belonging.
The second quality of Hospitality is the gift of Welcome—inviting someone in, beckoning another person into an atmosphere of “I’m-glad-to-be-with-you.”
Norman Rockwell created this exuberant depiction of glad-to-be-with-you Welcome. Each person in his painting exhibits Welcome in his or her own way, from the shy girlfriend to the unrestrained joy of the mother. Which one of us would not be touched and changed by such a Welcome? Genuine welcome such as this lavishes worth; it speaks clearly: “You are special and favorite! We are delighted you are here with us.”
“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” ~Bernard-Paul Heroux
In the quote above, Hospitality opens its door in a welcome of a different sort—offering to help bear the trouble of another. It is a quiet invitation to shelter one’s heart in a safe place and conveys “I’m-glad-to-be-with-you” to a person in pain. Of course, it is not the nice cup of tea that diminishes trouble, but the fact that another person would take the time to make it, sit down to listen, and want to share the burden.
Sometimes it’s not trouble, but joy that needs to be shared! Having someone to share our joys is as great a need as having someone share our troubles. Without such Welcome, life can be lonely indeed. Sharing joys and troubles is a very basic form of hospitality, but does come with some cost, for we must lend an ear, share our attention, and, most notably for our culture, our time.
This type of hospitality opens its heart, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep, and willingly receives another into its presence. Welcome gladly gives pleasure or delight or help, especially in response to a need. Sharing ourselves in such a way is a very practical way to offer hospitality to another, and to give Grace.
This type of Welcome is also where Celebration comes in—noting meaningful moments, emphasizing their importance, and cementing the occasion with a memory. Who else will care, and help us mark our small successes? Our nearly perfect spelling test? The loss of our five extra pounds? Our five years in remission? A year without our loved one?
The one who practices hospitality sees others through compassionate eyes, is aware of them, in their needs, and also their moments. Hospitable, “I’m-glad-to-be-with-you” kinds of people walk around in this world making those around them feel noticed, wanted, cared for, sheltered, and included.
Quite a gift of Grace.
Here is a compelling picture of hospitality, lavish welcome, and offering shelter in the midst of uncertainty and danger. The Welcome here not only provides safety in time of danger, but offers it with extravagant generosity:
“…the Beaver again popped its head out from behind the tree and beckoned earnestly to them. … ‘Further in, come further in. We’re not safe in the open! …I must bring you where we can have a real talk and also dinner.’ … Everyone, including Edmund, was very glad to hear the word ‘dinner.’
“Lucy thought the Beavers had a very snug little home though it was not at all like Mr. Tumnus’s cave. … [She] was helping Mrs. Beaver dish up the trout so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools and preparing to enjoy themselves. … And when they had finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.”
~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Yours for a return toward Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence,