Since our Hospitality Space has been open for a little over a month, I planned on sitting down and writing a little bit about hospitality. Because welcoming others into our space, both physically and relationally, is at the core of what we are about. And I am still reflecting on what this really means to our community. Because many might assume that, because of how many years I have done things like this, I would be really good at hospitality. But honestly, I don’t always feel that great at being hospitable. Because the reality is that hospitality is hard.
This idea of welcoming the other into your personal space can be daunting and scary and difficult. But it can also be life-giving. As a pastor within the Christian tradition, I believe that creating spaces of hospitality is not merely a job, but a deep part of my faith tradition. That it is central to this gospel that I claim to follow. That creating ways for people to connect with one another and offer each other hospitality is just as important as people connecting with god. And indeed those two are intimately connected.
Anytime we welcome another person into our space - be it our house, our church, or our life - there is a chance that something might get broken. Or stolen. We might get hurt. Because true hospitality requires this kind of proximity with others. And the more we allow ourselves to truly enter a space occupied by another, the more we open ourselves up to these things.
I remember a pivotal moment for me in this work. I had been working at HOMEpdx for only a few months, and was still very new at serving in a pastoral role with folks living outside. I came home from a long day hanging out on the streets, and sat down at my computer to look through a few things before the day was over. As part of my routine I clicked on Facebook, and there it was. Looking at me from the corner of the page. A friend request. From one of my friends who lived on the street. I sat there looking at that request for a few minutes. Should I friend them? I mean, I had just posted pictures of my vacation. Of me resting, celebrating, and doing middle-class things. And I was worried that my friend who slept under a bridge would see me differently than before.
I mean, I never lied about my life. I was just more reserved about how much I shared at HOMEpdx. In my mind, I was protecting my friends from having to feel weird about the reality that I didn’t sleep outside, and did things that were very middle class. Which, as you might have guessed, was total BS. The only thing I was protecting was myself, from having to feel guilty about those things I was able to do because of the resources I had. I was making all about my comfort. Not my new friends.
That realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and I clicked on that friend request to confirm. And over the next few years, I not only became “friends” with more and more of my HOMEpdx friends online, I became much more open about my life. I shared about my vacations and my weekends and my family. I stopped by the HOMEpdx Sunday meal the day after my wedding (on our way to our honeymoon!), just so I could celebrate with my friends.
The reality is, welcoming others into our relational space is much harder than welcoming others into our physical space. But that is where real community can begin to happen. I realized that I had no right to ask someone about their life if I was not willing to share about mine. And the more I shared about my life, the more I found myself having genuine conversations.
And I saw my friends who live outside start to become just my friends.