Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about hospitality. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it so much that my mind is going in fourteen different directions, so I’m not sure how this post will turn out.
When Bryan and I were courting (nice old fashioned word, eh?), one of the main things we discussed was our desire to share our home with others. We talked about buying a home with rooms we could rent, in a neighborhood with plenty of parking so people could come over easily, near a town center so we could be out and about in our community.
Amazingly, our home currently meets all these needs, and we feel very blessed (though some might argue our kitchen needs a little enlarging. Can I hear an amen?).
We are both people who by nature prefer isolation and the familiar, so it seems odd that God would also instill in us a desire to live so openly among others – both online and face to face. True, we have our Peeps – those people so familiar to us we can host dinner parties for them in our pajamas (it’s happened), but I think it’s just this thing that compliments our calling to hospitality.
I am not a conversationalist – I despise the what do you do for a living small talk that must precede the real stuff of friendships, but I recognize that it’s necessary. For this reason it’s really difficult for me to become your friend – in fact I’ve had many friends confide that they used to think I hated them – but once we are friends, I am as faithful as a Labrador retriever.
I have to be, because now you have all the shit on me.
Perhaps this is why I prefer to travel in packs. In social settings I glue myself to someone familiar and let her start all the conversations. I can participate easily enough, but I never know where to start. And perhaps this is why I also like to mix up the social groups in my home, inviting new friends along with the old. We all get to meet new people, and I’m not the only one in charge of making the conversation happen.
So I guess I’ve basically taken a weakness – my propensity to isolate and ignore the unfamiliar – and used community to draw myself out and meet new people.
If you haven’t already noticed, all my books are about a lonely person looking for some way to connect with other people.
In a way, that is the opposite of the American Dream: to get so rich you can rise above the rabble, all those people on the freeway or, worse, the bus. No, the dream is a big house, off alone somewhere. A penthouse, like Howard Hughes. Or a mountaintop castle, like William Randolph Hearst. Some lovely isolated nest where you can invite only the rabble you like. An environment you can control, free from conflict and pain. Where you rule.
Whether it’s a ranch in Montana or basement apartment with ten thousand DVDs and high-speed internet access, it never fails. We get there, and we’re alone. And we’re lonely.
Occasionally I drive out into a neighborhood deep in the heart of the suburbs, the kind of neighborhood in which you must take a series of four lefts and three rights just to get to your destination, which is likely a cul-de-sac. I don’t know why I do this. Sometimes I’m picking something up I’ve purchased on Craig’s List. Sometimes I stalk a house that’s for sale, wondering if I might want to move there, where sirens and horn honking and door slamming and engines revving are a bit less frequent.
But about the time I’m taking my sixth turn off the main road I start to feel a tightness in my chest because the isolation from the heartbeat of community makes me claustrophobic. The thought of having to drive everywhere makes me queezy. The thought of never bumping into someone on the street as I walk with my children makes me sad.
So I guess I’m counter cultural to the so-called American Dream. I want to know you (though I’m a little awkward in making that happen), and I want you to know more about me than you probably care to. If you rent one of our rooms, you will likely hear Bryan and I screaming at each other, but you will also likely move out with our key still on your ring because you are now a part of our family and are welcomed back at any time.
I don’t know. At least, I don’t know well enough to explore in this essay. Perhaps I will turn this topic into a series of posts to help me flesh out my thoughts.