When hospitality stops working

How do we respond when our core identity and its function is suddenly the cause of pain and loss?

Hospitality is very important to me.  As one who moves often and relies upon the  welcome and hospitality of others, the ability to offer it forward and in return is a large part of my identity.  I strive to create an atmosphere of welcome no matter where I go or who is around me.  As part of that identity, my home is sanctuary; not just for my family, but my intent is that it is a place of rest and peace for anyone who enters here.

Yesterday that all changed.  My home, my sanctuary, and one of the aspects that makes it so welcoming became a place of loss.  Death visited upon our home when my cousin’s dog, Molly, drowned in our pool while playing in the back yard.  The pool where we drifted on floaties with brandy slushes in our hands only the night before.  The pool where we go to rest and find peace in the midst of city chaos.  The pool that is a prize for so many homes, but a special tool for welcome at my home became the method of death.  Suddenly, my identity, wrapped up intricately in the “home” that I work diligently to create, has been reft in two.

I know this is not my fault, that is not the issue.  Instead, what comes to the fore, is that part of my hospitality and laid back place of rest is no longer able to be that for my cousin.  My pool, while still welcoming to many others, will never be a place of enjoyment for her again, and possibly, not even for my own family.  I think of the movie theater in Colorado, the parks where bad things happen, the churches where people are persecuted and I suddenly see something new that I did not before.

We often get caught up in the emotion of loss, the blaming of the place for the event, but we rarely consider the ones who tried to make it a special place and how this impacts their sense of hospitality or call to nourish community or peace.  The grassy knoll was lovely- still is… until you consider the events we now look back on.

I think, too, as Christians, as any people of faith, when we consider the violence that has happened throughout history in the sacred places, we may not even consider the aspect of healing that must occur with this in mind as well.

I have no answers as to how to move forward.  Forever, I will not know if the sense of peace in this house has been marred or if it will be able to become part of the fabric of life that makes it a special but painful place too.  I don’t have a miracle or a good word to share here… but neither did the disciples or Christ.  They took the moments of grief and pain and they shared that regardless, God is God and all of this, all that we think is important may not be what we think it is.  Those are the words of comfort for me.  My call to hospitality remains, and it is tried, but it is my confident hope that it will heal and my home and family will learn to remember with more joy than pain.  Then, one day, the pool will simply be a beautiful place with the loss of Molly being but one memory there for us, and the laughter will come again.  The warmth will return, and we will look up with smiles and a joy that is deeper than understanding.  Then, the hospitality will work its magic once more.


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