The blank page is both a blessing and a curse, like an empty house, or a bottle of wine. The space is open to the full spectrum of possibility but our tolerance will decide how much we can bear. The idea of an empty house and bottle of wine takes me right to the door of hospitality. I tend to think of it as a portal to friendship but now I believe it is so much more. Who we befriend is who we become. I’ve used this wisdom to understand my children, my co-workers, and students. True friendship is a rare gift, one to be nurtured, cherished, and valued.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of hospitality like a game of cornhole, there are bean bags laying all over the house, and I haven’t landed one yet. So I pay a visit to the online dictionary. The word hospitality derives from the Latin “hospes,” meaning “host”, “guest”, or “stranger”. (This is also part of the ‘hostile’ family tree but we’ll save that for another blog). Louis de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopedia as “the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.” Now that’s an ambitious dinner party. In some societies, the concept of hospitality is linked to the need for protection or refuge. You all remember Marcus Luttrell, the navy seal who landed in Afghanistan, the lone survivor of a major operational snafu. He was given hospitality by the locals who had to fight to protect his life.
As I was gathering up the bean bags, I realized in our society we might associate hospitality with etiquette and entertainment, but I believe it has more to do with refuge and protection. It reminds me of the Sacrament of Eucharist but also the sanctuary we find around the table at home.
This of course made me think of the dinner party I hosted the other night with a group of close friends, so close our iPhone’s connect automatically at each others house, we can empty each other’s dishwasher without help (possible but quite rare). We have been lining each other’s patio furniture for decades, resting in the seat of friendship, and gorging on decadent conversations. The other night, like many nights before, my guests arrive in small batches, grab a wine glass off the shelf, and take up stations on the patio.
This is not a fast food joint, we linger over appetizers for hours, and only light up the grill after sun set. There is rarely a lull in the conversation, no topic is off limit, and the children are always included. My life would be radically different without these particular people. I would never update my dusty opinions, I would not be stretched, or see myself as viable to the well-being of others. They are my sanctuary and my refuge. They have taught me the virtue of a great soul is to care for the whole universe through our human connections, how to fill an empty house, and drink the blessed wine.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. -Margaret Mead
Originally published on Living in the Gap
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