I think some people just have hospitable personalities that, no matter where you are, make you want to camp out in the living room of their soul.
I don’t know that I have that sort of personality.
I tend to size up the situation before me and make a judgment of who a person is before engaging someone for the first time. My default exterior is closed and uninviting, but if you look and act like me, or seem safe in some other way, maybe I will approach you.
I once watched with curiosity as my friend stopped to talk to a homeless woman in my neighborhood and extended ways in which she could personally help her. I had no idea what made her capable of doing this, and chalked it up to just not being my thing. I know lots of extroverts, those people who make conversation with everybody. They chat with the cashier while grocery shopping, they talk to the other moms at the park, they say, ‘Hey, that looks cute on you,’ to the fellow shopper at the mall. I once knew one gal whose husband teased her that she’d talk to a light pole if no one else was around.
This is not naturally me, but lately I’ve been trying to not use this as an excuse to avoid the people God puts in front of me. I have to psych myself up for a social event, or even for church. It takes a lot of energy for me to hang out in the fellowship hall of church vs just sitting in my seat waiting for the service to start. But in the end, I know I need to just get over myself.
On any given Sunday, I usually arrive with my family around 10am. My husband, Bryan, drops us off at the family entrance, and I check in the kids to children’s church while he parks the car and takes the shuttle in. Once the kids are settled, I save our seats in the sanctuary, then grab a cup of coffee in the fellowship hall and sit at one of the cafe tables.
Many Sundays I sit here alone, smiling at others as they walk by. Sometimes a friend I know will stop to chat briefly on her way to the coffee station. I know this method of greeting others is extremely passive of me, but sometimes my smile and my empty table looks inviting to another.
A few weeks ago I met Bill and Delores, a couple well into their retirement years, who recently started attending Mars Hill when they moved to West Seattle. Bill caught my eye and asked if he and his wife could join me. I was elated. I asked if they’d been coming long, how they’d heard about Mars Hill, and when I discovered they were fairly new, I asked what kept them coming back. We chatted, and they asked questions about our multi-campus structure and our overseas missions.
They were nothing like my grandparents, who attended a church with no instrumental music and required women to wear head coverings. For this reason I’m always surprised to see grandparents at Mars Hill – I just assume the loud music is too much for them. But Bill and Deloris not only loved the preaching, but they also loved the music, and kept coming back.
Even though my approach to hospitality on Sunday morning is a bit passive, it still challenges me to be more open to others who are different from me, and I end up meeting new and interesting people.