We’re on vacation. After our years of adventures overseas, we don’t think, “Let’s go to Disney World!” or “We should see Yosemite!” or “Let’s go see the coolest KFC in the nation!”
We say, “Let’s go see people we love!”
Our main destination for our vacation is Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian community we’ve lived in before, one that’s motivated by their faith to care for refugees, live simply, and welcome people in. (More on this later in the week.) The community is in northern Georgia. We live in Wisconsin. We’re not really into Super 8, so we start asking, “If we drive about 10 hours the first day, we could stay in Nashville. Do we know anybody in Nashville?”
I tick off an old college friend who we’ve not seen in over a decade, someone I met though work a year ago, a writer friend, and colleagues with InterVarsity, only one of whom I’ve met in person. I sent some emails, texts, Twitter DMs, and Facebook messages. They went something like this:
We’ll be in Nashville this Saturday night 8/11 and the following Saturday 8/18. We’re just passing through en route to and returning from a vacation in Atlanta and at a place where we volunteered with refugees. Any chance we could stay with you or that you could connect us to folks we could crash with? (It’ll be Chrissy, Phoebe, Zeke, and me.)
Part of our Amazing Days commitment is to avoid hotels and find real people to stay with whenever possible. Thanks for your grace in considering what might be a weird request!
Hoping you’re well,
After a bit of back and forth, some “Hey, did you get that message I sent?” a little prayer and referrals to a couple friends of friends, we had lined up dinner right when we arrived on Saturday with that old college friend. And we got to know that work contact that I met last year, along with his rad singer/potter wife and kids that Phoebe and Zeke had fun with.
I posted on Facebook on Sunday morning that we were in Nashville and someone we’d met in three years earlier South Africa commented, “We’re here! Let’s hang out!” Thus, our lunch was planned.
On Monday, we spent a few hours hiking Kennesaw Mountain outside of Atlanta and eating a simple lunch with someone we taught with in China and caught up with another set of old college friends with four boys that our kids could romp with.
Tuesday dawns rainy and grey. Today, we will drive across Atlanta (no small feat, I’m learning) to have brunch with a fantastic couple that does beautiful photography and helps persecuted Christians in Pakistan. Then, it’s onward to Jubilee Partners for a few days.
Next weekend, we reverse the process heading back to Athens on Friday night for yet another friend from our days as Badgers at the University of Wisconsin. Saturday will take us back to Nashville to stay with the same family again and hopefully the writer friend, too.
The key to all this hospitality was asking for it.
We had to send the messages, ask the questions, make the awkward re-introductions. If we did not make this effort, we would have been in a motel by ourselves with the cable as our only friend and fast food as our sustenance, rather than real people with real stories and real food.
We did not know these people well. Some we had met once. Some we’d not seen for a very long time. But they are good people. If someone needs a place to stay, they’re eager to help, even if it’s finding space at a neighbor’s place (two of them actually did this for us). They were so generous, so helpful, so hospitable, I felt bad, because we couldn’t accept it all. These acquaintances and old friends were very happy to house and feed us (or they’re very good at hiding their grumpiness).
While overseas, we learned to expect extraordinary hospitality—a family’s last chicken has been killed and cooked up for us on a couple different continents. People here are eager to house and to help, too.
You just need to give them the chance.
How do you cultivate hospitality? Do you ask others for it? Do you try things to welcome others into your home and life?