When I lived in Portland, I had a townhouse with a big kitchen, hardwood floors and a fireplace. I loved living there because it gave me the opportunity to practice hospitality, which I love.
Getting the guest room ready for overnight guests, putting together a basket of travel-sized toiletries just in case they forgot something, buying fresh flowers for the mantle, cooking a 4-course meal from scratch, dimming the lights and lighting the candles….
Even as I write about it now, I get excited. And then I moved out and started traveling and speaking, and I don’t have a home right now. Just me and a suitcase I’ve started calling Bob because he travels with me everywhere, and sometimes he’s my only companion and sometimes a girl just needs someone to talk to.
So anyway. It’s me and Bob against the world. Well, not against it, but you know what I mean.
Mostly, I love it, but sometimes I miss having my own home. Sometimes I just want to host a 50’s themed cocktail party or a Sunday night dinner party or invite a friend from the east coast to come visit me. I miss the hospitality that comes with place.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about a different idea: emotional hospitality.
We often think of the Advent story, and Mary giving birth in a barn because there was no room in the inn.
And we tell ourselves that if we were running that in, if we were living in Bethlehem, if a woman in active labor knocked on our door, we’d do something about it.
But we shut others out all the time. Sometimes literally (as evidenced in our approach to Syrian refugees), and often, emotionally.
So I’ve been trying to think of how I can practice emotional hospitality in my life.
Instead of walking off-stage and leaving out the back door after a speaking engagement, can I stay for the hugs and tears and stories people want to share with me?
Can I give someone my phone number and tell them to call me any time — and then actually pick up the phone when they do?
Can I generously give emotional energy and time, without expecting anything in return?
Can I treat relationships as more than a tit-for-tat exchange?
Can I use my writing to practice hospitality? To lay out ideas and say, “I will not yell these at you. I will not force these on you. But….I’m going to set the table and if you want to, if you’re hungry, if you’re ready, here’s everything I have, and you’re welcome to it.”
This Advent, can I open the door of my heart and say, “Come in — I would love to make room for one more.”