Empty seats. Fewer voices. We miss our guests gathered round the altar, the dining table, and staying alongside us in the Guesthouse. With the in-person absence, we’ve been stripped back to basics, including the essence of hospitality and who we are as guests to one another. I have found it a good reminder.
Hospitality is about offering our hearts. It is being present to another. It does not need a table, food, or any particular place. It is taking time and giving intention. Hospitality can be spontaneous and anywhere, on the street, in a store, and on Zoom. It’s not about fresh flowers, folded napkins, or swept floors. It’s not trying to entertain or impress you with my stuff. Hospitality is a generous attending of ear and eye, a healing beholding. With few options for giving the extra touches I had previously enjoyed, I have become more aware of different ways of both giving and receiving hospitality, especially on Zoom.
I am a better host than guest. It’s easier for me to give than receive. A lesson I keep learning is that we are all God’s guests, especially in what appears to be our home. We Brothers are here not only for what we can give but also in order to receive. Jesus touches everyone who comes under this roof whether for a night, a week, a year, or a lifetime. From receiving, we can give. We keep being invited to stop clinging, to let go and, despite our resistances, to receive love.
Relationships and community outside the Monastery sustain me especially because I can be a guest. With some friends, this includes staying in their homes and eating at their tables. Being listened to by friends and professionals – and participating in groups that I do not host or teach – prompts me to receive. That doesn’t mean I no longer actively listen, but the mutuality or focus is different. Those experiences energize and prompt me to further reach out to others.
“Put one hand on your heart and reach out the other hand to the screen,” Lisa said near the beginning of our online gathering. “We are connected to each other. Thank you for being present today in this group body.” As I reached out my hand, I was surprised to see other faces light up and my own smile widen as I felt my beating heart and gazed at relative strangers through Zoom.
For a year, I was part of an InterPlay small group Lisa facilitated. Playing and witnessing each other was refreshing each week. Experiencing meaningful connections like this on Zoom encouraged me to experiment in my own teaching. I have invited many folks to touch their hearts and reach out to others, a different passing the peace.
When I get to greet guests in person and as I continue to host on Zoom, I will also renew my prayerful understanding of being God’s guest and keep practicing receiving from others. The essence of hospitality has power to transform us all. I look forward to being with you, turning toward you, heart to heart.