One of my favorite places to go for nourishment and inspiration is the Spiritual Literacy library on YouTube. This week I was pulled in by a one-minute story about the hospitality of a person known as nothing more than the Desert Dweller. According to the story, this person has lived in the desert most, if not all, of his life. At the end of each day, the Desert Dweller leaves a lit lantern by the side of the road and a now worn out note in a plastic sheet protector letting people know how to find his cottage should they be in need. This story comes from a book by Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart.
For me this story is about the attitude we have about our willingness to open our hearts and homes to others. It is not about whether or not people accept our invitation. Rather, it is about our willingness to extend the invitation in the first place. So often, people ask me if it bothers me when I offer a group and nobody comes and the answer is always no. The invitation is just that, an invitation. If people accept it, that is great and if they do not, that is great as well. It does not effect what it was in the first place; it was an invitation. It was an invitation into our hearts and homes.
Hospitality then is not about quantity, but about intention. Are we being intentional about letting others in, or have we forgotten to put the welcome map out? To borrow a line from a Carol King song, have we let people know all they have to do is call, or have we changed the number and made it hard for people to connect with us even if they want to.
Recently, someone told me, she would begin welcoming people into her space again once she gets it presentable. While on one hand I understand that fear of being judged, what my friends taught me long ago is that they are coming to be with me, not my home. What makes people feel hospitable and welcomed is not the neatness of a space, but the loving attitude with which all are welcomed.
So this week, maybe we need to think about the lesson to be learned from the Desert Dweller. How are we putting out a lantern and note for others to let them know they are welcomed?