Hospitality That Diverts Tragedy

Hospitality That Diverts Tragedy

I couldn’t resist this article about the gunman who raided a D.C. area party, only to be thwarted by kindness when one of the party-goers extended hospitality to him. An incident that started with a man holding a gun to a 14-year-old girl’s head, ended with hugs and bewilderment for both parties involved:

After the intruder left, the guests walked inside the house, locked the door and stared at one another. They didn’t say a word. Rabdau dialed 911.

The incident almost seems cartoonish and as far fetched as frogs raining from the sky. If a movie were made of this incident, I picture a comedy with Eddie Murphy or Adam Sandler as the robber.

“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan, 43, blurted out. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?”

The intruder took a sip of their Château Malescot St.-Exupéry and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”

It makes me wonder what motivated one of the women to offer the gunman some wine. Did she sense hesitation? Did she sense he was more troubled than hardened? Whatever the reason, she in essence extended hospitality to an enemy, and her kindness diffused the situation.

The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.

Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.

“I think I may have come to the wrong house,” he said, looking around the patio.

“I’m sorry,” he told the group. “Can I get a hug?”

I’m a fighter, and when faced with a grouchy cashier, or a road rage-er, or a stressed out husband I usually respond in kind with harsh words or a snippy attitude. After all, don’t I have a right to be pissy? I’m certainly not the one who started it.

“There was this degree of disbelief and terror at the same time,” Rabdau said. “Then it miraculously just changed. His whole emotional tone turned — like, we’re one big happy family now. I thought: Was it the wine? Was it the cheese?”

Recently my thoughts about forgiveness have collided with my thoughts on hospitality, as I recently found myself at the same party as someone who had hurt me. I practice what a friend calls ‘maintenance forgiveness’ everyday, fighting my demons of bitterness and working to put my trust in God over the situation, but this has largely been a battle I fought in my own mind. Seeing someone I felt betrayed by was a whole new battle.

I don’t know if how I acted at this party was the right thing to do – I was aloof and distant. I honestly didn’t know what to say, given the circumstances, but I probably didn’t make it easy for anything to be said to me. The anger in me believes that showing kindness toward a perceived enemy is caving in to the idea that he or she may have been right in offending me – that it is weakness on my part to say hello and have a welcoming attitude, that ignoring or avoiding is the just thing to do in order to stand up for myself.

In the midst of my mind-wrangling, a friend shared these verses with me from Colossians 3:

12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. We offer kindness to a stranger or an enemy because kindness has been shown to us. This is the heart of hospitality. It’s like what it says in the book of Luke, what good is it if I love only those who love me in return? Anybody can do that. The challenge for me is to show kindness to someone who has not shown it to me.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Even as I write this, anger swells in me. I want justice, and I don’t want to be nice until I see it. I want someone to apologize to me without any sort of excuse or reason why things happened they way they did. And sometimes I feel like I could set up camp on my tall cliff of self-righteousness until Christ returns… or until I received an apology. I don’t want to be the first one to extend kindness and humility because, dammit, I was the one who was hurt. I am the one who was wronged. I shouldn’t have to make the first move. I… I… I…

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. But I also want peace and reconciliation, because being a part of community is too stressful when there is discord. When the Body is torn, so is the soul. When I think too much about how someone else should be treating me, instead of submitting to how I ought to be treating others, the selfishness eats a hole in me, making me feel bitter and depressed.

So as I think about hospitality, and hospitality of the heart, I think also of forgiveness and kindness and humility, and whether I can look into the face of a gunman and offer him a glass of wine. But as Bryan said to me as I processed it all with him, “We may not all be brandishing guns, be we’re all packing heat in the form of unforgiveness, and justice, and the desire to separate the white hats from the black hats.”

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