HH and I were out eating breakfast yesterday and a family in the next booth had one of those moments that every family has if you have kids: the random tantrum.
Parents become mortified sometimes to the extreme. [There was a popular restaurant in Chapel Hill that my parents never entered again after I threw a fit during a rare dinner out at the age of three. Decades later, they were still afraid they’d be recognized.]
The tantrum we witnessed yesterday didn’t involve a toddler. The child was not even a child. He was probably a teenager or a young adult. And he was probably autistic and really upset about something that nobody else was experiencing.
The restaurant staff was perfect.
They asked if they could help. They offered more water and coffee. And when the family decided it was best to leave, the staff was stink-eye free.
Hospitality is often inconvenient. This is especially frustrating in a world where people are supremely annoyed by highway detours and when we actually do mind your dust. My first reaction is displeasure when my favorite bakery is closed the week I’d hoped to take morning buns to the office, when I should be happy that the bakery owners understand downtime.
It’s easy to offer genuine hospitality when everybody’s saying please and thank you. It’s not so easy when people don’t wait their turn or they smell bad or they take more than their share. It’s not so easy when you are trying to make people feel comfortable and one family’s screaming child is making everyone uncomfortable.
Entertaining angels is easy when they act like angels. But when they act like they struggle with demons, we hesitate. Imagine a church that offers hospitality even to the children of God who make everybody uncomfortable.
Seen the eye rolls far to many times. So disappointing we can’t be compassionate to folks who have an illness that makes them less than perfect (not that any of us are) or don’t act the way we think we should. Everyone is Gods children and Is well pleased with us.
I did a self-directed study I called The Theology of Hospitality while I was at seminary… one of the phrases that still rings through my head was written by Rev. Jim Sinclair, who was at the time, the General Secretary of the United Church of Canada. He said the definition of hospitality was, “I am willing to disrupt my life for you.”
We had a child the other night at VBS who clearly has some “issues”; however, as the afternoon went on it seemed he became calmer and more involved as we all sought to include him and be a part of his life.
Amen to what you said. I have been in ministry for 25 years and many of the Congregations I served struggled to understand hospitality. There were always people who understood it but not enough to change the behavior of the congregation. I think that many of them had been part of the congregation for so long they forgot what it was like to be a new comer.
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